Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that he has suspended Hillsborough County’s elected State Attorney Andrew Warren. In a press release, DeSantis said it was “due to neglect of duty. The Governor has the authority to suspend a state officer under Article IV, Section 7 of the Constitution of the State of Florida.”
The Governor cited Warren’s joining with other prosecutors in pledging to not pursue criminal cases against women who seek abortions or doctors who provide them. Warren also said he would not charge people seeking or providing gender transition treatments.
DeSantis criticized Warren for signing on to letters with other prosecutors
“The prosecutor -= state attorney — for this judicial circuit, Andrew Warren, has put himself publicly above the law.
“In June of 2021, he signed a letter saying that he would not enforce any prohibitions on sex change operations for minors. And that is a debate that we are having mostly administratively and through medical licensing in Florida, but other states have an active penalty on the people that would perform those which are really disfiguring these young kids. And he said that it doesn’t matter what the legislature does in the state of Florida he is going to exercise a veto over that.
“He’s also instituted policies of ‘presumptive nonenforcement’ and this involves an array of different things that you will probably hear Sheriff Chronister and some of the other law enforcement officers talk about it. But that is not consistent with the role of a prosecutor.
“Yes, you can exercise discretion in an individual case, but that discretion has to be individualized and case-specific. You can’t just say you’re not going to do certain offenses.
“And then most recently after the Dobbs decision was rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court, he signed a letter he would not enforce any laws relating to protecting to the right to life in the state of Florida.”
DeSantis laid out the justification for suspending Warren
“The constitution of Florida has vested the veto power in the governor not in individual state attorneys. And so, when you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty. You have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of confidence to be able to perform those duties.
“And so today we are suspending State Attorney, Andrew Warren, effective immediately.”
DeSantis replaced Warren with Judge Susan Lopez.
In a press release announcing the suspension, DeSantis was flanked by several Sheriffs from around the region, many of whom suggested that crime is climbing in Hillsborough and blamed Warren for it.
Rally supporting Warren in Tampa
A rally opposing DeSantis’ suspension of Andrew Warren is happening Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at the Hillsborough County Courthouse, 800 East Twiggs Street in downtown Tampa.
In an email, 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. 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.
“Just because the governor violates your rights, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” Warren wrote.
Warren speaks during an unrelated press conference Thursday afternoon
“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.”
Jane Castor’s response
Many elected officials have slammed DeSantis’ move. On Twitter, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor wrote, “Removing a duly elected official should be based on egregious actions—not political statements. In a free state, voters should choose their elected officials. Tampa remains one of [the] safest cities of its size thanks to the cooperation between our officers & law enforcement partners.”
On Twitter, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor wrote:
“Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren is an honest public servant who respects the Florida Constitution incl our right to privacy which allows girls and women to determine their pathways in life.
He is right to exercise discretion and not prosecute women and doctors.”
In an email, Rep. Castor wrote, “The governor’s actions constitute an extreme abuse of power — a new low for Governor DeSantis who fails our great state with his mean-spirited, selfish and fiscally-irresponsible focus on his political ambitions alone.
“Floridians should be up in arms over the DeSantis policy to turn girls, women and doctors into criminals for personal health decisions. We certainly are in Hillsborough County.”
On Twitter, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist wrote:
“The people of Hillsborough elected @AndrewWarrenFL twice because of his commitment to safety and justice for all people. DeSantis’ decision to suspend him is that of a wannabe dictator who puts partisan politics first. Make no mistake, it’s an attack on Florida’s women.”
Response from Florida Rep. Fentrice Driskell:
“I’m not going to mince words: this is a shocking political attack on an elected official serving the people of Hillsborough County. Andrew Warren is being removed because he assured our community that he will not be a foot soldier in Ron DeSantis’ extremist agenda. As anti-abortion radicals try to move us closer to a full abortion ban, he said he wouldn’t prosecute women, or families with LGBTQ+ kids, by interfering with personal decision-making about their health care.
“Every county prosecutor uses their discretion in handling cases in their communities. Andrew Warren was operating fully within the appropriate discretion of his office, and if the people of Hillsborough County don’t like what he is doing, then we can make our voices heard at the ballot box.”