Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) suspended Andrew Warren, the two-time elected prosecutor in Tampa, on Thursday after Warren publicly said he would not seek criminal charges against abortion patients or providers as well as against doctors who provide gender affirming healthcare.
“Our government is a government of laws, not a government of men,” DeSantis told reporters at a press conference, conveniently forgetting that he is the Florida man making this decision to override the will of the people of Hillsborough County.
According to Florida statutes, DeSantis can remove “any county officer” like a county prosecutor for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony” while appointing their replacement for the suspension period. The state Senate could reinstate such official in a special session.
On the same day of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Warren signed onto a letter as one of 90 elected prosecutors from 31 states, territories and the District of Columbia, who said they will not prosecute abortion. The letter was organized by Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network of elected prosecutors committed to progressive reforms.
After Warren’s suspension was made public, FJP released a statement in support of Tampa’s top attorney. “Governor DeSantis’ suspension of State Attorney Andrew Warren is an unprecedented and dangerous intrusion on the separation of powers and the will of the voters. Since our country’s founding, the independence of the prosecutor – and the autonomy to decide whom and what to charge with inherently limited resources – has been a hallmark of the American criminal legal system,” the group’s lengthy statement said in part. “Governors don’t hand-pick elected prosecutors, the voters do.”
DeSantis announced that Judge Susan Lopez would take over as acting Florida State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit (aka the official title for Warren’s own job) at a press conference surrounded by cops. At the press conference, DeSantis was flanked by so many cops. I guess to give the impression that police are really upset by one (1) prosecutor deciding his office would have other legal priorities. One former police chief said, “The governor should not have had to come to Hillsborough County and clean up our mess,” which did make me laugh since not prosecuting abortion would free up resources to prosecute crimes which I assume are the “mess” he discussed.
Warren has been an outspoken critic of DeSantis, but has won over Tampa voters twice, most recently in November 2020. He won 53 percent of the vote. Warren was scheduled to speak to media about a county cold case on Thursday, but instead cancelled that press conference and released a statement.
“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.”