Editorial Roundup: Florida

Orlando Sentinel. June 14, 2024.

Editorial: Supreme Court rejects truth and justice by upholding the suspension of Monique Worrell

The Florida Supreme Court set a terrifying precedent last week w hen upholding the suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell. Six of the court’s seven judges declared themselves knowingly blind to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failure to cite legitimate grounds for removing her. They ignored evidence that many of the allegations in the governor’s order of suspension were based on incomplete or inaccurate information, including some outright lies. They refused to acknowledge that most of his complaints were based on a simple disagreement with Worrell’s prosecution strategies — the same policies she campaigned on and that won her 65% of Orange and Osceola county votes.

The lone holdout was Justice Jorge LaBarga, whose dissent questioned the fundamental lack of justice in DeSantis’ actions. “The suspension of a duly elected constitutional officer must be viewed as an enormous undertaking that requires clear justification,” he wrote. “At the very least, the official in question should be apprised of the specific allegations giving rise to the suspension to ensure an opportunity to mount a meaningful defense.” Worrell had no such opportunity, he said.

But according to the majority opinion, that doesn’t matter. The law doesn’t matter. The facts don’t matter. And the voters certainly don’t matter — only worth mentioning in a few footnotes. Instead, the court curled slavishly at DeSantis’ feet: So long as the governor crosses his Ts and dots his Is, he can suspend anyone he wants, on any spurious grounds he wishes to cite — and then replace them with appointees who sometimes lack the qualifications to perform critical roles.

And nobody can stop him.

That’s wrong. It has to be wrong. And if it’s not, Florida voters will have to make changes to restore justice as the primary goal of Florida’s justice system.

Facts do matter

When DeSantis suspended Worrell 10 months ago, his order accused her of neglect of duty and incompetence. “Worrell’s practices and policies have too often allowed violent criminals to escape the full consequences of their criminal conduct, thereby endangering the innocent civilians of Orange and Osceola counties,” a press release from his office stated. The order went further: “Worrell has authorized or allowed practices or policies that have systematically permitted violent offenders, drug traffickers, serious juvenile offenders and pedophiles to evade incarceration, when otherwise warranted under Florida law.”

But when the Orlando Sentinel took a closer look at those claims, DeSantis’ claims started to fall apart. Many of the cases Worrell was accused of “failing” to prosecute were actually delayed for reasons that the state attorney’s office had no control over — including cases that were dropped because law enforcement failed to hand over sufficient evidence or that were dismissed because police violated suspects’ rights. One common problem: The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office sometimes failed to establish the quantity of drugs seized (an essential element in trafficking cases). The governor and Osceola Sheriff Marcos Lopez also said that none of the people charged with drug trafficking received sentences that reflected the state’s mandatory penalties, which wasn’t true.

The Sentinel investigation revealed that, of the 74 drug-trafficking cases DeSantis and Lopez accused Worrell of bungling, only 39 resulted in reduced charges. And more than half of those 39 cases failed because of circumstances beyond the control of the state attorney’s office.

Beyond that, many of the governor’s attacks relied on Worrell’s promise to back away from harshly punitive policies, especially for young and non-violent offenders. That philosophy was well within Worrell’s discretion as a prosecutor, and clearly appealed to the voters who elected her. Yet the six-justice majority refused to examine DeSantis’ argument that these policies constituted a “dereliction of duty.”

Judicial lapdogs

The court’s contention was clear. So long as DeSantis (or any other governor) parroted the right phrases, any public official who was eligible for suspension could be yanked from public office — the facts be damned until, or unless, the Florida Senate decided to review the suspension. The Senate has proven to be just as incurious as the high court; Worrell’s suspension was not examined in the 2024 session.

This decision reaches far beyond the fate of one elected official. It’s about the trashing of Florida’s careful system of checks and balances. It’s about enabling a governor who recognizes no limits on his own power, and who is willing to corrupt the fundamental principles meant to keep this government accountable and fair. It is about stripping away voters’ ability to make rational choices about candidates for public office and their right to have those decisions respected.

It is, quite simply, about right versus wrong. With six of Florida’s seven Supreme Court justices on the wrong side, heaven help us — until November, when Floridians can help themselves at the ballot box. Two of DeSantis’ hand-picked justices (Renatha Francis and Meredith Sasso) will be up for merit-retention votes. Meanwhile, every candidate for the state Legislature should be asked whether they support Florida’s governor gone rogue — and what changes are needed to protect justice in the future.


Miami Herald. June 15, 2024.

Editorial: Trump’s special treatment in Florida is a privilege other felons don’t get

The national political soap opera continues as former President Donald Trump prepares for his July 11 sentencing in the hush money criminal case. As expected, Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to play the top supporting role by vowing to restore Trump’s voting rights as a felon so he can cast a ballot in Florida’s November elections.

Oh, the drama.

Donald Trump laments: Rigged trial. Treated unfairly by the prosecutor and a “compromised” judge. Yet he was given a unanimous spanking by a jury of his peers, including those who said during jury selection that they get their news from Fox News or social media outlets that lean right . Corroborated facts and a paper trail led to a conviction on all counts involving an intricate web of creative bookkeeping to cover up pay offs to keep a porn star, among others, quiet just weeks before the 2016 election.

He cries out fake news! And he should know, because for years Trump had been playing the New York tabloid media, and during the 2016 presidential campaign, plying them with fake stories about his political enemies that the National Enquirer was all too willing to publish.

He plays the most blasphemous victimhood card: Persecuted more than Jesus Christ, he claims. God help us all.

He plays the race card: Trump proceeds to claim that Black men in particular can relate to how unfairly he’s being treated by the courts.

He threatens: Retribution for the “Biden crime family” despite the fact that his beef is with the New York state court system, not the U.S. Justice Department.

He maligns: Casts the FBI into the Deep State conspiracy pile and even brings back the specter of a former first lady, senator and secretary of state being imprisoned for who knows what crime if he becomes president.

And there, maligning the rule of law and embracing Drama King Trump is most every high-level Republican throughout the nation fearful of calling a convicted felon a felon. Leading the charge is DeSantis, who has vowed that Trump’s felony conviction on 34 counts in New York won’t affect the king’s good standing when it comes time to vote for president.

Never mind that Trump still faces trials for hiding classified and top-secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago compound in Palm Beach, his role in the “it’s going to be wild” riots at the Capitol in 2021 and his harassment of elections officials in Georgia to get some 1,000-plus votes switched to him. And let’s not forget that failed fake electors’ scheme now being adjudicated against Trump’s minions in various states where GOP officials tried to cheat voters with false documents to hand Trump a win.

DeSantis plans to get the Florida Clemency Board to restore Trump’s right to vote in the Sunshine State, irrespective of any court rulings in other states. “The bottom line is that Donald Trump’s vote this November will be one of millions that demonstrate Florida is now a solid Republican state!” DeSantis posted on X.

In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for felons (not those convicted of violent crimes or sex offenses), but since DeSantis took office, he has been slow-walking any progress.

The line of Black and Hispanic people waiting to get their voting rights restored is miles long, despite the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition doing its best to streamline the process. Yes, the clemency board has broad authority to restore rights. The challenge under DeSantis has been when people of color try to get their voting rights restored and face barriers.

DeSantis should apply the same rules he plans to use to help felonious Trump to all the people who qualify under the constitutional amendment that voters approved six long years ago. That would be equal justice.


South Florida Sun Sentinel. June 13, 2024.

Editorial: Callous cuts by DeSantis make no fiscal sense

As Florida braces for warnings of a very dangerous hurricane season, who could possibly be against spending money for generators in public buildings?

Gov. Ron DeSantis, that’s who.

The governor vetoed nearly $1 billion in legislative discretionary spending in the new state budget Wednesday. No region of the state was spared. The majority of vetoed projects were sponsored by his fellow Republicans, who control all spending, so DeSantis can’t be accused of singling out only Democrats.

But these callous cuts make no sense. They perpetuate the perception that his vetoes are arbitrary and petty, motivated only by a desire to hit a statistical target that’s important to him politically.

With this budget, he wanted to be able to boast that spending next year will be less than the current year. In a letter accompanying his veto list, DeSantis showed his hand by twice highlighting that the budget he signed reflects “less overall spending” than the current budget.

Nothing to brag about

Big deal. In a state that keeps growing as much as Florida, and with so many massive unmet needs, that’s nothing to brag about. It’s evidence of neglect.

To reach his numerical target, DeSantis wiped out modest spending initiatives for local athletic fields, community centers, fire-rescue equipment, flood control, food banks, foster care, homeless children, opioid prevention, pedestrian crosswalks, science labs, student mentoring, wellness and workforce housing.

He boasted of how his vetoes reflect “fiscal soundness.” That claim lacks all credibility after the DeSantis administration supported a $50 million no-bid contract to a politically connected vendor to build and manage a warehouse on Interstate 4 for hurricane preparedness.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Texas vendor, LifeScience Logistics, contributed more than $300,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and to lawmakers’ leadership funds. The firm is represented by Ballard Partners, the largest lobbying firm in Florida, which has ties to DeSantis.

How’s that for “fiscal soundness”?

On his 16-page veto list, the governor rejected $300,000 for a crime prevention program in the small Broward city of West Park.

He wiped out a $1 million appropriation for a three-mile security fence along Dixie Highway between Atlantic Boulevard and Sample Road in Pompano Beach, in part to prevent people from walking into oncoming trains and getting killed. The $12.6 million project is funded mostly by the city.

He refused Hollywood’s $400,000 request for a backup emergency generator for its new police headquarters — yet he let stand $175,000 for a generator for a downtown pump station in Fort Lauderdale, a city inundated by flooding this week.

Where’s the logic in that? Why approve a generator in Fort Lauderdale and reject one 10 miles away?

Why? He won’t say

We’d like to tell you, but as usual, DeSantis offers no justification or logic for his veto decisions, if there was any.

Incredibly, he wiped out the full $26 million list of approved arts and cultural projects for next year — also without a word of explanation.

The list includes $200,000 for an Orlando Black History Month event. That’s not just callous, it’s dumb. The arts and cultural programs make Florida a better, richer and smarter place.

This budget was overflowing with nearly 1,500 separate local spending projects worth $2.5 billion.

How they got into the budget in the first place is never pretty, as it’s often the product of raw political power and the hidden influence of lobbyists. But that’s a separate debate. The vast majority of legislators in both parties approved this budget.

DeSantis said his line-item vetoes will boost the state’s budget surplus to $17 billion, money the state will need if there’s a killer storm this season. But with all that money lying around, you would think DeSantis could help pay for an emergency generator.