Gov. DeSantis ousts another progressive prosecutor, names Federalist Society replacement

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) removed another democratically elected prosecutor from office yesterday, accusing her of “neglect of duty.”

Monique Worrell, the state attorney of Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit covering the Orlando area, was elected to the position by over 66% of voters in 2020. She is a former public defender who built her career on criminal justice reform, campaigning on ending wrongful convictions and increasing police accountability. As such, she has regularly been attacked by Florida police unions and Republican politicians as being “too soft on crime.”

In a document announcing her removal on Wednesday, Gov. DeSantis alleged that “the administration of criminal justice in the Ninth Circuit has been so clearly and fundamentally derelict as to constitute both neglect of duty and incompetence.” DeSantis held a press conference soon after, featuring two sheriffs, whose jurisdictions are not in Worrell’s district, and who heaped praise on the governor amid applause from the audience:

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd: When Gov. DeSantis was first elected, he was asked by the media about these laws that help people in prison. I mean, he was a brand new governor and certainly he had the opportunity there in front of the media to say ‘well, I’ll check it out.’ But he looked the cameras in the eye and says, ‘I believe in truth and sentencing.’ You see, this governor has always put the victims, has always put the law-abiding citizens ahead of the criminals. Always. And that’s exactly what he’s done here today. I’ve had the honor of being in law enforcement my entire adult life and I know true real leadership when I see true real leadership. And that’s what Gov. DeSantis does every day when he comes to work.

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey: Like Sheriff Judd, I’ve been in this business for a long time. I will tell you this, this is very simple when it comes to law and order—Gov. DeSantis is not playing. Gov. DeSantis, like I and all the others standing up here, took an oath of office to protect our communities. He understands that government’s one and only responsibility is to protect its citizens. And his actions today, without question, saved lives of citizens in central Florida…This is simple—about law and order. It’s not about anything else. It’s not about politics, it’s not about politics, it’s not about likes or dislikes. Actually, I’m going to say it is about likes or dislikes. Gov. DeSantis likes elected leaders that do their job. Their job of putting bad people in jail. Folks, we don’t want to become some of these other areas that we see around the country. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle. We don’t want to become those. And we need strong leaders that are going to say ‘enough is enough.’

Worrell held her own news conference, saying “if we’re mourning anything this morning, it is the loss of democracy.”

I am your duly elected state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit and nothing done by a weak dictator can change that. This is an outrage…Elected officials are being taken out of office solely for political purposes and that should never be a thing. There used to be a very high standard for the removal of elected officials. There used to be a standard that I would have been criminally prosecuted for something, neglecting my duties – meaning that I’d not show up for work and do my job – or that I have some sort of an illness that prevented me from doing my job.

But under this tyranny, elected officials can be removed simply for political purposes and by a whim of the governor and no matter how you feel about me, you should not be OK with that.

DeSantis appointed Andrew Bain, who has served as a judge on the 9th Judicial Circuit, to replace Worrell. Bain is a member of the far-right Federalist Society, just like the person chosen to replace the other state attorney ousted by DeSantis.

Almost exactly a year ago, DeSantis removed Hillsborough County state attorney Andrew Warren from his elected office for pledging not to bring criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender transition treatments. Susan Lopez, a member of the Federalist Society, was chosen by DeSantis to replace him.

  • Reminder: Warren sued DeSantis, seeking his job back. Federal Judge Robert Hinkle overwhelmingly sided with Warren but conceded that he didn’t have the authority to reinstate him to his position. “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended elected State Attorney Andrew H. Warren, ostensibly on the ground that Mr. Warren had blanket policies not to prosecute certain kinds of cases,” Hinkle wrote. “The allegation was false. Mr. Warren’s well-established policy, followed in every case by every prosecutor in the office, was to exercise prosecutorial discretion at every stage of every case. Any reasonable investigation would have confirmed this.”


Meanwhile, a group of district attorneys in Georgia filed a lawsuit last week challenging a newly enacted statute that makes it easier to remove elected prosecutors.

Senate Bill 92, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in May, created a commission to discipline and potentially remove prosecutors for nearly any reason, including using prosecutorial discretion not to bring charges in particular instances. All members of the commission are appointed by Republican officials.

When signing the bill into law, Kemp said the commission is needed to rein in “far-left prosecutors” who are “making our communities less safe”—code for reform-minded attorneys who prioritize treatment and rehabilitation over jail and refuse to bring charges that support the GOP war on women and transgender people. Others, however, worry that the real goal of Republican leaders is to remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from office for investigating former president Donald Trump. Without a court order blocking its implementation, the commission will be functional at the start of next year.

The lawsuit, brought by Stone Mountain DA Sherry Boston, Towaliga DA Jonathan Adams (a Republican), Augusta DA Jared Williams, and Cobb DA Flynn Broady—who together represent a total population of more than 1.8 million people—argues that the new law “discourages prosecutors from exercising their judgment to decline to pursue charges in a case, to pursue rehabilitative approaches, or to seek a lower sentence.”

Prosecutorial discretion is imperative to the job of all district attorneys. For example, consensual sodomy and adultery are still illegal in Georgia; prosecutors just decline to bring charges when those “crimes” are committed.

Crimes like adultery, fornication, and sodomy are still on the books in Georgia, but many prosecutors decline to prosecute them. Adams had a situation in September where a woman filed an application for a warrant to arrest her husband for adultery. “If I didn’t have that policy against prosecuting that crime, her husband would have had an arrest, would have had to be booked into the jail, may have lost his job or had some other impact,” he said. “Every unmarried person in the entire state of Georgia having sexual activities is committing a criminal offense.”

Conservative lawmakers could be setting a precedent that could come back to bite them, Adams said, potentially facing edicts in the future by a more liberal governor or legislature. He said, “Down the road, we’re gonna have to face this on the other side.”

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