ORLANDO — Florida state attorney Aramis Ayala has filed a pair of lawsuits against Gov. Rick Scott aimed at reversing his order to take criminal cases away from her based on her public declaration that she will no longer seek the death penalty in any case.
The state's prosecutor, Ayala recently filed suit in federal court and with the state’s highest court, challenging Scott’s decision to remove her from nearly two dozen cases that span Orlando and the neighboring suburbs.
In the case before the state Supreme Court, Ayala argues that Scott overstepped his authority and requests that she be reinstated as prosecutor in each instance.
If the justices don’t move to do that immediately, Ayala requests that the transfers be halted until the state's highest court rules on the fate of Scott's actions and the question of whether they violated the state's constitution.
Ayala’s federally filed lawsuit also charges that Scott’s actions violate the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting her from performing the job voters elected her to do and denies her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
“I think this case matters most to the community she represents, but it also matters to people who believe laws should not be effected by politics,” Ayala’s attorney Roy Austin, a partner with the Washington-based law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, told the Florida Record. “When you elect someone, they should be able to do their job.”
Austin, a former deputy assistant to the Obama administration’s office of urban affairs, said he’s convinced Scott’s motivations are purely political and that no other state attorney in the area has been treated the way he’s elected to treat Ayala.
“This is about his intention to destroy a particular attorney,” Austin added. “He needs to explain why that is.”
Florida's first African-American states’ attorney, Ayala has come under fire after recently announcing she has no plans to seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd or any other defendant until the structure of the law is adjusted so that the process no longer drags along for families of the victims.
Loyd is charged with killing an Orlando police officer earlier this year and also faces charges of murdering his pregnant girlfriend in late 2016.
Scott recently went on record by declaring he feels every citizen “deserves” a state at attorney willing to fully prosecute cases.
“This has nothing to do with a particular case,” Austin said. “You’ve got numerous districts that have never sought the death penalty and there’s been nothing done by the governor.”
Although Ayala has attracted widespread support from civil rights groups and legal scholars, Florida lawmakers have already moved to cut her office's budget by roughly $1.3 million this year.
The two cases are due back in court later this month when Scott is expected to formally respond to Ayala’s actions.