Politicking about prosecutor’s suspension has begun in the FL Senate, which gets last word

Gov. Ron DeSantis used his political power to suspend Monique Worrell as top prosecutor in Orange and Osceola counties this week. Now maneuvering has begun in the overwhelmingly Republican Senate, which has final say over whether Worrell and another prosecutor DeSantis has suspended can keep their jobs.

A Senate vote would seem to be required if Worrell is to be permanently ousted as state’s attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. That said, Worrell at last word was still reviewing her legal options — specifically, whether she’ll take the governor to court. That’s what Hillsborough County State’s Attorney Andrew Warren did when DeSantis suspended him almost exactly one year ago. He has not sought a hearing in the Senate yet, preferring to take his chances in the courts.

Worrell has vowed to seek reelection next year, however.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. Credit: Florida Senate

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo released a memorandum to senators about the suspension.

“The first step in addressing a suspension is to inform the suspended official of the Senate’s receipt of the governor’s suspension action and to inquire whether it is the intention of the suspended official to resign from office or request a hearing,” Passidomo wrote.

“Alternatively, should Ms. Worrell choose to challenge the suspension order in court, the Senate process will be held in abeyance and the matter will not be considered by the Senate until final determination of a court challenge and the exhaustion of all appellate remedies,” she continued.

“As I have mentioned previously, since we are tasked by Florida’s Constitution to sit in judgment of the merits of a suspension, in my view, senators should refrain from speaking publicly about the merits or substance of any executive suspension.”

That warning hasn’t dampened Democrats’ outrage over the governor’s actions — with House Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orange County speaking for many by accusing him of “eroding our local control and democracy” through his “politically motivated action.”

The Republican governor, whose campaign for president has been struggling, accused Worrell of going easy on violent criminals. She responded during a press conference this week that she was fulfilling her campaign promise of progressive law enforcement, emphasizing diversion programs and diversity when possible.

Sen. Lauren Book. WFSU photo

Lauren Book, of Broward County, the Democratic leader in the Senate, acknowledged Passidomo’s caution in commenting on the situation on Friday in a letter to the governor.

Still, “I would ask that you make the public aware of whoever else may be facing suspension,” she wrote in her letter.

“If your position is that a series, pattern or culture of conduct within an office, presumably developing over several months, years or terms, while tasked with the administration of our state’s criminal justice system, rises to a level of negligence so severe that suspension is warranted, it naturally follows that the public (and the hundreds of public servants working within these offices) has the right to know two critical things,” Book wrote.


  • What other State Attorney(s) is facing suspension?
  • As there are vastly different data across crime subcategories, what is the metric used to determine which conduct or negligence (on a percentage basis, perhaps) rises to a level requiring suspension?”
Suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell holds news conference Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. Source: YouTube, WPTV News- Florida Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast.

Last year, DeSantis said he targeted Warren because he signed a group letter declaring a reluctance to charge crimes under Florida’s abortion bans.

Like Worrell, Warren denied wrongdoing and he is fighting in federal court for reinstatement. In fact, a federal judge agreed politics was behind Warren’s suspension and that “the record includes not a hint of misconduct by Mr. Warren.” The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. As with Worrell, Passidomo has said the Senate won’t take up his suspension until he’s finished with his litigation.

Asked for comment about Book’s letter, DeSantis press secretary Jeremy Redfern offered none — he merely sent copies of the governor’s suspension order against Worrell, which the office had already released.

In Washington

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, a Democrat from Orange County, has again asked U.S. House Republicans to investigate DeSantis’ “ongoing efforts to subvert democracy.”

Maxwell Frost. Credit: U.S. House

Frost wrote a letter to James Comer, chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, to hold hearings in the matter to no avail.

“It is disheartening to witness the erosion of the foundations upon which our nation was built. In Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, the Republican Guaranty Clause compels Congress to “guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government,” which means not a Republican Party form of government but a representative government based on principles of fair democratic representation and participation, due process, freedom of speech, and freedom of association for all,” Frost’s letter reads.

“Given the seriousness of the current attack on democracy and freedom in Florida and other states, the urgent need for Congressional action has become more dire than ever. A full Committee hearing is essential to understand the pattern of these abuses of power and to identify the steps that must be taken to protect the rights and freedoms of Floridians and Americans living in other states witnessing similar attacks. We look forward to your prompt reply.”


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