Andrew Warren, the State Attorney for Hillsborough County in Florida, was suspended by the Governor. Ron DeSantis, who pledged not to prosecute abortion crime crimes, filed suit against the governor in federal court accusing him of a “blatant abuse” of power in suspending his office.
Warren was twice elected Hillsborough County State attorney. DeSantis cannot suspend Warren for doing something that he hasn’t done. Warren signed a promise not to prosecute abortion crime. Although intent must be considered, DeSantis said that the move was in line with his “law & order” philosophy. He described Warren’s suspension to be the removal of a progressive prosecutor who refused enforce laws.
DeSantis’s problem is that declaring an intention not to enforce the laws is not the same thing as refusing to enforce it in a particular case.
Warren filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida alleging that DeSantis violated the First Amendment by suspending him because he signed a promise not to prosecute women seeking abortions and for his public statements against the criminalization of transgender persons. DeSantis’ executive orders that suspended him are being thrown out and the court is to declare that governors cannot take similar actions in the future.
DeSantis is also accused of having overstepped his authority to remove elected officials from office. He signed pledges with Warren, not in response to an official act. The matter is now likely to be brought up by the Republican-led Florida Senate. They would need to act before Warren is officially removed from office.
DeSantis stands on uncertain legal ground. However, DeSantis still stands on solid legal ground and has the chance to prevail before the Florida Senate.
David B. wrote that these statements had no impact on Warren’s decision in any case he was considering while in office. Singer, Warren’s attorney, was a part of the lawsuit. “Statements on matters of public discussion do not relate incompetence as defined by the Florida Constitution.”
It is true. However, no legislature in the country would like its democratically reached decisions to be challenged or modified by a county attorney. He is responsible for enforcing the law, even if it does not agree with him. It is not morally questionable to decide whether to enforce a law regarding abortion or gender-affirming treatments. These are political decisions that should be left to the governor and state legislatures.
DeSantis’s office stated that the lawsuit was anticipated.
Taryn Fenske (DeSantis’ communications director) stated that Warren, who was suspended because he refused to follow the law, would file an unfounded lawsuit to challenge his suspension. “We look forwards to responding in court.”
Warren’s lawsuit notes that he “never was referred to a case involving an request to prosecute abortion related crimes,” so he never refused to prosecute any state law, even though he signed the abortion pledge.
Warren might win in federal court but it is unlikely that he will be able to keep his job after the Florida senator votes. This will lead to more legal disputes over whether or not the judgment of the state senator will prevail.
Wakeful prosecutors have a lesson to learn: Keep your opinions to yourselves.