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Southern Poverty Law Center lawyers Thursday filed a federal lawsuit challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Orlando-area State Attorney Monique Worrell, arguing the ouster violated the rights of voters.
The 22-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Orlando, came as the Florida Supreme Court is poised to hear arguments Wednesday in a separate challenge filed by Worrell.
The Southern Poverty Law Center case, filed on behalf of two voters and the group Florida Rising Together, contends the suspension violated due process and First Amendment rights.
It seeks reinstatement of Worrell as state attorney in the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orange and Osceola counties.
“Governor DeSantis’s intentional nullification of election results has undermined the fundamental fairness and integrity of the electoral process,” the lawsuit said. “The nature of the injury in this case is egregious. ,,, Governor DeSantis’s actions deprived nearly 400,000 people of their fundamental right to vote and threatens the integrity of the state’s democratic system.”
DeSantis on Aug. 9 issued an executive order suspending Worrell, a Democrat who was elected in 2020.
Among other things, the order alleged that Worrell’s policies prevented or discouraged assistant state attorneys from seeking minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes and drug trafficking offenses.
But Worrell has argued in her challenge at the Florida Supreme Court that DeSantis did not have a legal basis to suspend her.
DeSantis appointed Andrew Bain, who had served as an Orange County judge, to replace Worrell as state attorney.
Ultimately, the Florida Senate would decide whether to remove Worrell from office. The Senate process has been put on hold amid the legal battle.