The Orlando community plans to rally Thursday night in protest of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of elected Ninth Judicial District State Attorney Monique Worrell on Wednesday.
The Rally for Democracy will take place at Orlando City Hall at 7 p.m., one day after DeSantis issued an executive order suspending the Orange-Osceola County prosecutor from office.
DeSantis announced his decision to suspend Worrell, an elected Democrat and self-described “criminal and social justice reform advocate,” at a press conference in Tallahassee, citing “neglect of duty and incompetence.”
The governor’s executive order cites his authority to do so on account of a state attorney’s “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony.”
Worrell, who won her seat in 2020 with 66% support — nearly 400,000 votes total — denounced DeSantis’ claims of “incompetence” at her own press conference Wednesday, and those of Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican who claimed Worrell had “made justice in the Ninth Circuit almost an arbitrary coin flip.”
“I am your duly elected state attorney,” Worell declared Wednesday at the Orange County Courthouse, “and nothing done by a weak dictator can change that.”
In his announcement of Worrell’s suspension, featuring zero representatives from Central Florida, DeSantis appointed local judge Andrew Bain, 37, to take her place. Bain, a graduate of the University of Miami and Florida A&M University’s College of Law, was appointed to the county bench by DeSantis in 2020.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that he’s also a member of the conservative Federalist Society and received low marks in a judicial qualifications poll by the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Bain shared on Wednesday that his goal as state attorney “is to restore order, restore the faith in the law, restore public trust, and restore our relationship with our fellow [justice] partners … in law enforcement.”
Worrell, and some other vocal critics of the governor’s decision — including State Rep. Anna Eskamani, U.S. Congressman Maxwell Frost, and State Rep. Rita Harris — have described the suspension as a politically-motivated attack on local democracy by DeSantis, who’s struggling in his campaign for U.S. President.
“In removing a duly elected official, who is also the only Black woman State Attorney in Florida, Gov. DeSantis has made his priorities clear,” State Rep. Rita Harris, D-Orlando, shared in a statement. “He does not care about the will of Floridians, but is actively using us as pawns to energize a national base in his run for higher office.”
DeSantis and Moody on Wednesday claimed Worrell’s been too soft on crime, dismissing more cases than other state attorneys in the state (Democrat and Republican alike) and blamed Worrell’s office for a shooting last Friday that injured two Orlando police officers.
Worrell’s suspension marks the second time DeSantis has suspended a state attorney in the span of a single year. Last August, DeSantis (in what was also decried as a political attack) suspended Hillsborough County state attorney Andrew Warren after he pledged not to prosecute those seeking or providing gender affirming care or an abortion.
Worrell has said she plans to continue her campaign for reelection.
“I will not be bullied by DeSantis or used as a tool in his failing and disastrous presidential campaign,” Worrell wrote in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Today we mourn the loss of democracy. I am the duly-elected State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Nothing done by a weak dictator can change that. This is an outrage. I will not be bullied by DeSantis or used as a tool in his failing and disastrous presidential campaign. pic.twitter.com/OVn4E1v54p
— Monique H. Worrell (@MoniqueHWorrell) August 9, 2023
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