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Florida Supreme Court rejects Worrell’s appeal of suspension by DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s highest court on Thursday rejected an effort by a suspended state attorney to get reinstated after she was removed from office last year by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in his second suspension of a Democratic prosecutor.

Supreme Court justices voted 6-1 to deny a petition from suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell of the 9th Judicial Circuit, which serves metro Orlando. The majority of justices said they disagreed with her arguments that DeSantis’ reasons for suspending her were too vague or that the suspension infringed on her lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

DeSantis claimed Worrell failed to prosecute crimes committed by minors and didn’t seek mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, putting the public in danger in her central Florida district.

Worrell said her suspension was politically motivated since it took place while DeSantis was running for the GOP presidential nomination. She argued that the state constitution only allows for the suspension of an elected official for egregious misconduct, and that she was simply doing her job as she saw fit.

Five of the Supreme Court justices were appointed by DeSantis.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Jorge Labarga, who was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2009, said that state attorneys need to have the discretion to address the individual challenges in their communities since Florida is such a large state.

Without that, anytime state attorneys make choices about which cases to prosecute, they “may also face suspension and replacement despite having been overwhelmingly elected by the voters of the circuit,” Labarga wrote.

DeSantis last year removed Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, a twice-elected Democrat in Tampa, over Warren’s signing of pledges that he would not pursue criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender transition treatments as well as his policies on not bringing charges for certain low-level crimes.

Warren is running for Hillsborough state attorney this year against Republican Suzy Lopez, who was appointed by DeSantis to replace him. Democratic attorney Elizabeth Martinez Strauss also is running for the position.

DeSantis appointed Orange County Circuit Judge Andrew Bain to replace Worrell, and Bain and Worrell are expected to face off this year in an election for the position

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