Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order suspending Andrew Warren, the twice-elected Democratic state attorney for Hillsborough County, for failing to prosecute crimes the Repblican believes he should enforce. guilt
“State Attorneys have a duty to prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “It is my duty to hold Florida’s elected officials to the highest standards for the people of Florida. I have the utmost trust that Judge Susan Lopez will lead the office through this transition and faithfully uphold the rule of law.”
While the Florida Constitution empowers the governor to suspend and replace officials “for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony,” nobody has been accused of a crime that Warren failed to prosecute or indict.
DeSantis pointed to two letters that Warren signed along with prosecutors across the country who vowed not to prosecute people who “seek, provide, or support abortions” and condemned efforts to restrict gender-affirming health care.
One of the letters condemned “blatantly unconstitutional attacks on some of the most vulnerable Americans” while the other declared that “prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions.”
“The prosecutor, state attorney for this judicial circuit, Andrew Warren, has put himself publicly above the law,” said DeSantis, who made himself judge, jury and executioner even though there appears to be no underlying offense on which the prosecutor may be charged.
The state Senate has the authority to overrule the governor but for a lomg time, Florida Republicans have cheated voters by creating district lines to put the Democratic Party at a severe disadvantage, essentially stacking the deck in Tallahassee.
If the Senate’s GOP majority failed to reinstate him, Warren’s case may be strong enough to show federal courts that dividing lawmakers’ districts in ways that eliminate fairness are an affront to such constitutional principles as equal protection and due process.
A federal judge struck down the Tennessee law that required businesses to post offensive government-prescribed warning signs if they allow transgender people to use a public restroom that was the inspiration for one of the letters Warren signed, along with other elected prosecutors representing communities across the country.
Warren insisted that he remains on the job and said he is not going anywhere at a news conference announcing a development in a cold case murder investigation.
“I’m still doing this job as State Attorney,” Warren said. “I’m the twice duly elected State Attorney of Hillsborough County. And the governor signing with a pen or a crayon doesn’t change that.”
DeSantis suspended Warren four months after the Republican governor first threatened to strip Disney’s powers in the state in the wake of the corporation publicly denouncing the state’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law as critics call it.
Warren has been the State Attorney in Hillsborough County since 2016 and was elected twice. He also used to be a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice. On Thursday, he said he has not had any abortion or gender therapy cases and is in fact doing his job.
“I’ve served as State Attorney and I’ve done it well. Crime is down, we’re protecting people’s rights,” he said.
Warren said the governor’s move is not about his duties as a prosecutor but about politics and a group of .
“Governors don’t hand-pick elected prosecutors, the voters do,” said Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky. “With this outrageous overreach, Gov. DeSantis is sending a clear message that the will of the people of Hillsborough County matters less than his own political agenda.”
Krinsky’s statement notes that the independence of the prosecutor is a hallmark of the American criminal legal system and the removal of a duly elected prosecutor from office is an unprecedented intrusion on prosecutorial discretion and the will of the people.
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“The governor is trying to overthrow the results of a fair and free election, two of them actually. And people need to understand: this isn’t the governor trying to suspend one elected official. This is the governor trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County,” Warren said.
“Today’s political stunt is an illegal overreach that continues a dangerous pattern by Ron DeSantis of using his office to further his own political ambition,” Warren said. “It spits in the face of the voters of Hillsborough County who have twice elected me to serve them, not Ron DeSantis.”
“In our community, crime is low, our Constitutional rights—including the right to privacy—are being upheld, and the people have the right to elect their own leaders—not have them dictated by an aspiring presidential candidate who has shown time and again he feels accountable to no one,” Warren said. “Just because the governor violates your rights, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”