Just One Political Party Grabs Power From Duly Elected Prosecutors

That’s suspended prosecutor Monique Worrell on the right. Source: YouTube

The Philadelphia DA and a Florida State Attorney are the latest victims of Republicans who favor power over principle.

One word could describe the Republicans’ latest plundering of the rule of law: Gotcha!

Two duly elected prosecutors serving “blue” cities were neutered by Republican officials. One was fired and the other had a swath of jurisdiction taken away. The reason both happened: Republican authorities disagreed with the prosecutors’ approach to criminal justice administration…despite both being elected (and one reelected) by sizable majorities.

Both actions are expected to be contested in a court of law.

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner

Reluctant Democratic allies: DA Larry Krasner (L) with PA Governor Josh Shapiro. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

DA Krasner vs. the State Legislature

Republicans in Pennsylvania’s state legislature are out to get Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner. Their latest foray was disguised as a “transportation bill.”

One month ago, the Pennsylvania state legislature passed a bill, known as Act 40, which directs the state’s attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor for crimes that occur at or near Philadelphia’s transit system, called SEPTA. Since SEPTA trains and buses make stops nearly everywhere in the city, Act 40 allows the state to intervene in indeterminate Philadelphia criminal cases, and chip away at the prosecutorial authority of District Attorney Larry Krasner, a progressive reformer. Gotcha!

More on Larry Krasner: Philadelphia Ended Cash Bail for Minor Offenses and the Sky Didn’t Fall

Act 40 was signed by Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat. Shapiro reluctantly signed the bill as a trade-off to pass a state budget that contained many of the governor’s priorities. Notably, when a similar bill was passed in 2019 against Krasner, then-attorney general Shapiro did not act on it.

Act 40’s Authoritarian Bent

It would seem the Republican legislature had no problem with disfranchising the over 150,000 Philadelphians who voted for Krasner in a 2021 landslide. Further, the legislation prohibits state funds from being used for the special prosecutor, meaning the city is on the hook for something Philadelphians never asked for.

And even though SEPTA goes to suburban communities, Act 40 stops at the city limits. “Philadelphia is the only majority Black and brown county, and that’s the only place where [Act 40] applies,” asserted State Senator Sharif Street, “{suggesting] that Philadelphians aren’t responsible enough to choose their own prosecutor.”

DA Krasner with supporters. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Impeaching the DA

This is not the state legislature’s first crack at Krasner. In November 2022, the state House of Representatives passed seven articles of impeachment against Krasner for allegedly being soft on crime. The DA countered that this was the only time the legislature “used the drastic remedy of impeachment of an elected official because they did not like [our] ideas.”

The impeachment is stalled in the Senate after a commonwealth court ruled that the charges against Krasner “did not meet the state constitution’s definition of misbehavior in office.” A two-thirds conviction in the Senate seems unlikely.

Florida State Attorney Monique Worrell

Public reaction to DeSantis suspending Worrell. Source: Orlando Sentinel

Crime and Punishment

On August 9, 2023, voters in Orlando, Florida, recoiled at the news of Florida’s only Black female state attorney being suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis for alleged neglect of duty. How could a respected former public defender, law professor, and prosecutor be punished like an unruly child after garnering 66 percent of the vote in Orlando’s 9th Judicial Circuit, the third most populous in the state?

Monique Worrell learned hard lessons about criminal justice growing up in Brooklyn, New York. Her much older brother began suffering from PTSD after being discharged from the Air Force and self-medicated with crack cocaine. Instead of being treated for mental illness, Monique’s brother was frequently in and out of jail.

“I decided that it was wrong,” Worrell told the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We shouldn’t live in a world that treats people who serve this country and suffer from mental illness that way. And I decided to do something about it.”

Worrell vs. DeSantis

Of course, pursuing a progressive criminal justice agenda put Worrell into direct conflict with Gov. Ron DeSantis, a staunch conservative. Indeed, Worrell’s winning campaign featured a promise to claw back some of DeSantis’s extreme policies against teachers, voting rights, COVID-19 vaccines, abortion rights, LGBTQ people, and Disney World.

Like the Republicans in Pennsylvania, DeSantis felt no imperative to honor the will of the voters. The governor has made a career out of pulling performative stunts as a cultural warrior.

Read: FL Governor Ron DeSantis Wants to Lead the Culture War

The Disney affair is a textbook example of how Go. DeSantis uses government to punish his critics. Source: deadline.com & Getty Images

No Justice, No Cry

In deciphering state attorney Worrell’s neglect of duty, the governor leaned on Worrell’s low overall incarceration rates. Never mind that a progressive prosecutor often seeks other means of punishment for low-level crimes. But Worrell and her attorneys argued that “there is no duty for a state attorney to maximize incarceration rates” and that  DeSantis could not “identify a single, specific policy or practice at odds with Florida law.”

This lawyerly cry for justice mattered little to Gov. DeSantis. He already had one notch on his belt: the August 2022 suspension of Tampa state attorney Andrew Warren, another progressive. DeSantis’s “imperial governorship” is performance art for the MAGA base as he continues his flailing campaign for president.


It might be tempting to take a cynical view of these two cases: merely politicians battling for territory, may the best man (or woman) win. It’s that all right, but the stakes are much higher. Free and fair elections are a pillar of our democracy and shouldn’t be trifled with. It’s a slippery slope that probably wouldn’t end well.

Anyone who follows current events knows there is just one party voicing election denial. One party favoring power over principle. Republicans should just say the hidden part out loud:

Elections don’t count unless we win.

Get it out in the open so we can start purging it from our political discourse.



Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

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