TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the state Supreme Court against Gov. Ron DeSantis, claiming that he had no grounds to suspend her.
Worrell, who was elected as the State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit (Orange and Osceola counties), claims that DeSantis’ Aug. 9 executive order fails to “allege facts that, even if true, would relate to any neglect of duty or incompetence.”
Worrell claims that while the executive order mentions her “practices and policies,” it doesn’t specifically identity a specific policy or practice. Worrell says her case is different than the case against Andrew Warren, the state attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit, which covers Hillsborough County.
“Although the [Executive Order] repeatedly implies that Ms. Worrell, by exercising her prosecutorial discretion, has neglected her duty by adopting practices and policies contrary to Florida law, the [Executive Order] does not allege a single instance in which Ms. Worrell’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion violated Florida law,” the lawsuit states.
Worrell said DeSantis disagreeing with her prosecutorial discretion doesn’t give him the right to suspend her from elected office, according to the lawsuit, and that his vague allegations don’t meet the constitutional requirement for a suspension.
DeSantis’ executive order accused Worrell of dropping charges and “declining to allege otherwise provable facts to avoid triggering applicable lengthy sentences, minimum mandatory sentences, or other sentencing enhancements, especially for offenders under the age of 25, except in the most extreme cases.”
DeSantis said Worrell’s practices undermine the safety, security and welfare of the communities. DeSantis cited data that the Ninth Circuit received 14 non-homicide cases of Home Invasion Robbery with a Firearm from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office without a single one resulting in minimum mandatory sentences.
The Executive Order points out that the Ninth Circuit has the lowest number of prison admission rates per capita for certain crimes when compared to other Florida judicial circuits, but Worrell claims there is no correlation.
“Because there is no duty for a state attorney to maximize incarceration rates, lower than average incarceration rates are no evidence of neglect of duty or incompetence,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims that when focusing on prison admission rates for violent crimes in the Ninth Circuit rather than non-violent crimes, incarceration rates are “akin to the statewide average and are higher than that of several other circuits, led by state attorneys [DeSantis] has not sought to remove.”
The lawsuit cites data showing that violent crime rates in the Ninth Circuit are lower during Worrell’s time in office than they’ve been in the last 10 years.
“Because the Executive Order fails to state any specific facts supporting suspension, Ms. Worrell has a ‘clear legal right’ to be restored to her office, and no other adequate remedy is available,” the lawsuit states.
Read the full lawsuit below:
“Because the suspension power, when applied to elected officials, carries with it the potential to undermine the will of the voters and to be abused for political reasons, the Constitution requires that the suspension order allege facts that constitute a legitimate basis for suspension,” the lawsuit states. “If simply claiming the official has ‘practices and policies’ that constitute neglect of duty and incompetence were sufficient, any governor could suspend any state official.”