Monique Worrell

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Monique Worrell, the elected state attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit, on August 9, 2023.

(Photo: Monique Worrell campaign)

'Weak Dictator' Ron DeSantis Under Fire for Suspending Second Florida Prosecutor

"Gov. Ron DeSantis showed yet again his disdain for his own constituents and the foundation of our democracy by removing State Attorney Monique Worrell from office," said the head of a national network of prosecutors.

In a move that critics called "baseless and undemocratic," Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday removed another elected state attorney—Monique Worrell of the 9th Judicial Circuit, which includes Orange and Osceola counties—accusing her of "incompetence" and "neglect of duty" for how she has handled some criminal cases.

The governor—also a struggling 2024 GOP presidential candidate—appointed Andrew Bain, who most recently served as an Orange County judge, to replace Worrell for the duration of her suspension, which the ousted prosecutor plans to challenge in court.

Last August, DeSantis suspended Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit over his pledges not to prosecute people for violating restrictions on abortion or gender-affirming care. Warren, who is still fighting for his job back, called Worrell's ouster "another illegal and unconstitutional attack on democracy by a small, scared man who is desperate to save his political career."

DeSantis' suspension of Worrell "has been looming over the prosecutor since February, when the governor condemned her office following a deadly shooting spree in Pine Hills," the Orlando Sentinelreported Wednesday.

The Tampa Bay Times noted that more broadly, "Worrell has come under scrutiny by police union officials and others for how her office has handled criminal cases. But she has defended her actions and argued that the criticism was an effort by DeSantis and other law enforcement officials to justify her suspension."

Speaking to the press Wednesday, Worrell said that "if we're mourning anything this morning, it is the loss of democracy. I am your duly elected state attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit and nothing done by a weak dictator can change that. This is an outrage."

"I was elected by the people of the 9th Judicial Circuit to lead this circuit—and yes, to do things unconventionally, to do things differently," she continued. "I did exactly what I said I would do, and that is what you want from an elected official."

Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement that "once again, Gov. DeSantis shows that he will do whatever he can in order to keep his power and control over the state, regardless of what the people want or how they voted."

"Today's action by DeSantis overturns the will of the people," Gross stressed. "Last year, the governor overturned the will of the people in Hillsborough County when he ousted State Attorney Warren. Which counties are next? When will he stop?"

"Ousting elected officials because you disagree with their leadership and installing hand-picked individuals to take over their job responsibilities is what happens in authoritarian regimes, not democratic nations," she added. "In a democracy, you can't just remove elected officials who you don't like. Elections matter. This matters. The whole country is watching."

Warren's suspension stemmed from his support for a pair of joint statements from the national network Fair and Just Prosecution. The group's executive director, Miriam Krinsky, echoed her own criticism of DeSantis from last year in a Wednesday statement about Worrell.

"Today, Gov. Ron DeSantis showed yet again his disdain for his own constituents and the foundation of our democracy by removing State Attorney Monique Worrell from office," she said, blasting the ouster as a "desperate political stunt" and "deeply disturbing abuse of power."

Krinsky also highlighted some of Worrell's accomplishments:

During her time in office, she has created special victims and mental health units, developed a new diversion program to help reduce recidivism, and implemented policies to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. She also convened the first-ever violence prevention summit in her community, aimed at developing collaborative solutions to stop crime from happening before it occurred. She has enacted changes to make her community safer and stronger—just as she promised to do. This is the very essence of fulfilling her responsibility to her community, not 'neglect of duty,' as the governor falsely claims.

"And if her community disapproves of the job she is doing," Krisky added, "it is up to them to make that decision, and not up to the governor to override the will of the people."

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