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Florida state attorney, suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis, goes to court

A Florida state attorney, suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis for "neglecting her duty" to prosecute crime, was in court Wednesday to get her elected position reinstated over claims her ouster was politically motivated. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
A Florida state attorney, suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis for "neglecting her duty" to prosecute crime, was in court Wednesday to get her elected position reinstated over claims her ouster was politically motivated. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- A Democratic state attorney, suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis for "neglecting her duty" to prosecute crime, was in court Wednesday to get her elected position reinstated over claims her ouster was politically motivated.

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday that Monique Worrell's suspension did not meet criteria in the Florida Constitution and undermined the will of the voters who elected her in 2020.

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Worrell, whose 9th Judicial District covers Orange and Osceola counties, called DeSantis' actions in August "authoritarian, as her lawyers claimed her suspension was politically motivated in order to help the governor win the White House in 2024.

DeSantis suspended Worrell in August because he said she was "neglecting her duty to faithfully prosecute crime in her jurisdiction."

"Worrell's practices and policies have too often allowed violent criminals to escape the full consequences of their criminal conduct, thereby endangering the innocent civilians of Orange and Osceola counties," the governor's office said in a statement.

In court Wednesday, Worrell's attorney Laura Ferguson argued that DeSantis had no grounds to suspend her.

"The order does not allege any conduct by Ms. Worrell that even if proven at a Senate trial would constitute neglect of duty or incompetence," Ferguson said, adding that state attorneys are only "accountable to the voters."

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"And because they're elected and not appointed, they do not serve at the discretion of the governor," she added.

Jeffrey DeSousa, chief deputy solicitor general, said DeSantis "properly suspended Ms. Worrell from office," as he urged the justices to dismiss the case.

DeSousa argued that Worrell failed to send offenders to prison at a rate near the levels of other circuits.

"It really is an abysmal record and if we had nothing else, if there was nothing specific that she was doing and was just ineffective at prosecuting crime, we think that would be enough," DeSousa added.

While DeSantis has used his suspension power to remove an elected sheriff and an elections supervisor over their job performance, past governors have only removed elected officials if they were arrested.

Worrell's suspension comes one year after DeSantis suspended Democratic Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren. Warren is currently appealing his suspension in federal court.

Both suspensions have become part of DeSantis' bid for the Republican presidential nomination and are used as examples of his tough approach to crime.

Worrell, who decided to take her case to court instead of to the GOP-controlled Senate, said Wednesday she is hopeful that the court will side with her as she vowed to seek another term as state attorney in 2024.

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