A coalition of groups led by the Advancement Project in Washington D.C. is filing an amicus brief charging Gov. Rick Scott with refusing to recognize voters’ will in the State Attorney Aramis Ayala case in the Florida Supreme Court.
The coalition, including Civil Rights, immigration reform and labor groups, is characterizing Ayala as a criminal justice reform state attorney elected by voters of Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit because of her criminal justice reform platform.
And they’re charging that Scott is rejecting that criminal justice reform platform selected by voters because he does not like the reform she is pursuing – her decision to not pursue death penalty prosecutions.
Scott has stripped Ayala of 23 first-degree murder cases and reassigned them to 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King. Ayala on Tuesday challenged Scott’s power to do so in a writ before the Florida Supreme Court and a lawsuit in federal court.
The coalition’s friend-of-the-court entry is in the Supreme Court case, charging Scott is refusing to recognize the will of the voters.
Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project, called Scott’s move “a power grab” in a telephone press conference Thursday announcing the amicus brief.
“We are raising two points in our brief. One of which is the state of Florida is in need of criminal justice reform, and two, that the people voted in a reformer in order to make that happen,” Browne Dianis said.
She said Florida is one of the worst offenders when it comes to a “broken criminal justice system” and that Ayala’s reforms are sought by voters and eschewed by Tallahassee leadership.
“Unfortunately Gov. Scott … didn’t like the policies of Aramis Ayala and decided to step in and usurp the will of the voters,” Browne Dianis continued. “That is unconstitutional”
Ayala never campaigned against the death penalty during her 2016 election campaign, though she did offer herself as a criminal justice reformer.
The coalition, which included representatives of the New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Color of Change and the SEIU Florida, also pushed racial aspects of the battle between Ayala, who is Florida’s first African-American state attorney, and Scott, who is white.
Chardonnay Singleton of Dream Defenders, a criminal justice reform organization founded after the slaying of Treyvon Martin in Sanford, said Ayala’s election also can be traced to the cry for criminal justice reform that came from that case..
“The voters have really sought to create an environment where the criminal justice system serves them and not special interests,” Singleton said. “And that’s reflected in the election of Ayala, who is the first black woman state attorney, and that’s a testament of our desire as voters’ across Florida to transform the system to one that is more human, to one that that is more human, one that is more reflective of all of the people in Florida, and one that is more restorative to us as human beings.”