Photos: YouTube Screenshots\Wikimedia Commons
ORLANDO, Fla. — Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a complaint challenging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell, claiming the suspension rejects the will of the voters who elected Worrell and violates their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, on behalf of voters who elected Worrell and Florida Rising, a grassroots democracy-building organization, claims that Gov. DeSantis’s suspension of Ms. Worrell effectively disenfranchises over 395,000 voters who elected her and undermines the fundamental fairness and integrity of the electoral process.
“My rights as a voter and citizen were violated when the governor overstepped in his power to remove State Attorney Worrell,” said David Caicedo, an Orlando resident who voted for Ms. Worrell in 2020. “My involvement in this lawsuit is an escalation of my civic participation. We’re requesting for the people’s government to be in the best interest of the citizens, not to be used as political pawns.”
“The lawsuit is a necessary step to push back against Gov. DeSantis’s executive overreach to advance his political agenda by unlawfully removing duly elected officials,” said Rajib Chowdhury, a central Florida resident and voter. “Many central Florida voters, like me, were enthusiastic about Attorney Worrell’s proposed criminal justice reforms when she was a candidate, and we made our support known in the streets and at the ballot box. She was elected by an overwhelming majority of the vote to represent the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, and we want her back in office.”
“Worrell’s suspension is a direct attack on the ability of Floridians to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” said Sheena Rolle, Florida Rising Senior Director of Strategy. “DeSantis is trying to intimidate elected democratic officials into shying away from reforms. We are standing up against his abuse of power.”
“Gov. DeSantis’s decision to remove State Attorney Monique Worrell undermines free and fair elections in Florida,” said Matletha Bennette, SPLC senior staff attorney. “It is a flagrant abuse of power in pursuit of a harmful and anti-democracy agenda. Through this lawsuit, we will defend the rights of voters to elect candidates of their choice without fearing that a governor will override their vote.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit seek a court order reinstating Attorney Worrell to her elected position.
On Aug. 9, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Worrell, a Democrat, from her elected position as state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties because of his opposition to her criminal justice reforms and a general hostility toward elected Democrats. Worrell’s reforms included measures supported by her constituents, such as curtailing the use of cash bail, expanding programs diverting children convicted of non-violent offenses away from incarceration, and implementing procedures to prevent police misconduct.
Worrell’s suspension is the latest in a pattern of politically motivated suspensions. In August 2022, the governor suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, also a Democrat, over political and ideological differences, and politics motivated the governor to suspend several other duly elected officials, including a sheriff, a school superintendent, an elections supervisor, and four school board members.
About the Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.