Saying that a twice-elected Hillsborough County prosecutor has put himself “above the law,” Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren for pledging to not enforce Florida’s 15-week restriction on abortion.
DeSantis appointed Hillsborough County judge Susan Lopez to take Warren’s place during his period of suspension.
Flanked by law enforcement officials from around the Tampa Bay area, DeSantis held a press conference Thursday to announce Warren’s suspension effective immediately.
The governor said he will pursue Warren’s eventual removal from office, an issue that would have to go before the Republican-controlled state Senate.
“The conduct that he has done has fell below the standard that’s required in the Florida Constitution. When you’re saying you’re not going to enforce certain laws you don’t like, that’s a neglect of duty. That, quite frankly, is incompetence as defined in Florida law,” DeSantis said.
Warren, a Democrat, lashed out at DeSantis on Thursday, accusing the governor of overstepping his authority.
“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,” Warren said in a prepared statement. “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, who was first elected as state attorney for Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit in 2016, recently signed a joint letter promising to avoid prosecuting people for providing or seeking abortions. The letter was published in June by the organization Fair and Just Prosecution, which bills itself as bringing together elected local prosecutors to promote “a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility.”
Warren signed the letter along with more than 90 prosecutors from various states, some of which have enacted limitations on abortion similar to the Florida measure. The Florida Legislature passed the 15-week abortion restriction this spring, and DeSantis signed it in April. Providers could face third-degree felony charges for breaking the law.
“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion. But we stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions,” the June 24 letter said. “As such, we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”
DeSantis also targeted Warren for joining a separate letter “condemning the criminalization of transgender people and gender-affirming healthcare” that was published by the organization Fair and Just Prosecution a year ago. The letter also was signed by Monique Worrell, state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit.
DeSantis’ administration recently ratcheted up pressure on medical providers who provide puberty-blocking medication and hormone therapy for transgender people. The State Board of Medicine is set to consider a proposal, backed by the Florida Department of Health, that would ban doctors from using the treatments for transgender youths.
“That’s a debate that we’re having mostly administratively and through medical licensing in Florida. But other states have enacted penalties on the people who would perform those, which are really disfiguring these young kids. And (Warren) said it doesn’t matter what the Legislature does in the state of Florida, he’s going to exercise a veto over that,” the governor said Thursday.
The state Constitution allows the governor to remove an elected official from office for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence” and the inability to perform their official duties.
DeSantis’ action drew harsh criticism from Democrats Thursday.
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat who is in line become House minority leader after the November elections, slammed DeSantis for what she called his “interference” in the prosecutor’s office.
“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,” Driskell said in a statement.
State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, decried Warren’s suspension as being part of “attacks on women,” calling DeSantis “extreme” and “unhinged” in a tweet.
“Andrew Warren has served our community with dignity and respect and to suspend him because he won’t criminalize a women’s right to choose (is) unconscionable. Shame on you Governor, may the women in this state speak out this November,” Cruz wrote.
DeSantis invited Tampa-area law enforcement officials at Thursday’s press conference to air their grievances about Warren. Their comments revealed a longstanding rift between the prosecutor and police.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister accused Warren of having been too lenient on crime.
“Over the last several years, State Attorney Warren has acted as an adjudicator of all, as if some type of supreme authority, by reducing charges, dropping cases, and single-handedly determining what crimes will be legal or illegal in our county,” Chronister said.
Former Tampa police chief Brian Dugan, who retired last year, called Warren a “fraud” and criticized Warren for not prosecuting 67 Tampa protesters who were arrested for unlawful assembly during demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in 2020.
Lopez, Warren’s replacement, said Thursday that she got a call from DeSantis “a couple of days ago” letting her know that she would be installed as state attorney.
“It is my promise to the people of Hillsborough County that I will faithfully execute the duties of this office and to ensure that we are fulfilling its purpose to prosecute crimes and protect the people” of the county, Lopez said.
Meanwhile, Warren’s suspension became the most recent cudgel that the Democrats who are vying to replace DeSantis are using against the governor.
State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called Warren’s suspension a “politically motivated attack on a universally respected” elected state attorney.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, condemned DeSantis’ action as “that of a wannabe dictator who puts partisan politics first.”
–Ryan Dailey, News Service of Florida
It’s funny how this Dick-santis wants to keep women pregnant!
Who does this guy think he is, Orban? Why isn’t Rhonda Santis at CPAC heiling his demigod and licking his boots? Autocrats gonna autocrat and it’s sick. Not here. Not now. Not ever. I am an anti-fascist. They have no place in my country. My ancestors fought against this filth and if I too, I will do the same.
Tony Mack says
Holy Fascism, Batman — next on his agenda is to suspend all voters who have registered as Democrats. After all, didn’t Soros pay all of us to vote Democratic on the ticket? What — you didn’t get your Soros money — so sorry, you lose.
This guy is dangerous to democracy. Elected Democrats are now an endangered species if they don’t obey this Fascist right down the line. Forget who or what the people voted for, it no longer matters. DeSantis already eliminated two Congressional districts represented by Democrats and he will continue to pick off elected Democrats no matter the convoluted reasons. Next in line — if you are a registered Democrat, your vote no longer will be counted because you are bought and paid for by George Soros. Oh, and if you’re a member of the media — go find work somewhere else because we won’t be responding you any longer.
Democracy is in danger folks — beware…Don’t think it can happen??? Germany 1933…
jim morrison says
you need to go hung robin. soros is not what we need – anti bail, anti death penalty and anti police
jeffery c. seib says
If anyone out there thinks that seeing Chairman Ron picking on a local, duly elected public servant is of anything but a political stunt then they are probably of the persuasion that the republican party is so out of whack from its historical belief in small, local government control that we are heading into a deep morass that, like quicksand, will be quick to swallow up all our cherished American values such as liberty and freedom. This mini-Trump should be thrown out by the voters along with all the narrow-minded Sherriff’s that share his philosophy of mind and social control.
There is such a thing as “abuse of prosecutorial discretion”. The governor of this state is within the rights of his elected office *and* within the law to suspend a prosecutor for not doing their job. There is a clearly-worded statute on the books which allows for it. Don’t like that? Get the statute changed.
I’d rather replace the Governor with a fully functional, compassionate human being who is in office to help and support his entire constituency, not just those that he thinks will further his political agenda(s).
So you want to replace him with someone who won’t care if some serious crimes aren’t prosecuted? Despite press rhetoric, this wasn’t just about Warren’s abortion position. Armed and dangerous thugs were walking on little if any bail.
You are correct. Bottom line job was to prosecute law violations not make laws. Do not like the laws; change them. Governor DeSantis was within his rights and the law to suspend the non-performing state employee. Actually firing a non-performing employee is part of his job.
Agreed that there is “abuse of prosecutorial discretion”. However, the elected prosecutor in question only “said” he that he intended to not enforce a specific Florida law. Elected officials say a lot of things to keep their base happy. Also, prosecutors routinely exercise prosecutorial discretion. It is part of their job. Andrew Warren pledged to not enforce Florida’s 15-week restriction on abortion. He had not actually failed to enforce the new law, as no cases relating to the abortion restrictions had come before him. Given the political climate in Florida and his position, he should have chosen his words more carefully.
In the normal course of events, the governor would not have hastily removed Warren. Rather the governor would have warned him that failure to enforce the laws of Florida impartially, would constitute abuse of his office and obligate the governor to replace him. DeSantis jumped the gun, so to speak.
So is DeSantis a bold leader or a wannabe dictator? He might be a bit of both.
David Schaefer says
DeathSantis must be voted out. Please go live with your boy tRUMP you are useless…..
But at this point, has warren not done his job, or simply SAID he won’t do it? Seems two completely different things and overreach. Legally, there is a huge difference between doing something and actually doing it. And having been elected and not appointed, does he serve at the pleasure of the governor?
Correction: saying you’re going to do something and actually doing it.🤭
DeathSantis mini dictator suspends a Democrat, get the picture, he wouldn’t have done that to a Cult GOP person. DeathSantis is ruling Florida like a communistic government. He discriminates against gay’s, blacks, orientatals and of course anyone he feels threatened by.
He wants to be President of the US, remember how he is leading in Florida before you ever consider him in the Oval Office.
He will be far worse then Trump and soon the country will see where it got Trump to act like a dictator.
DeSantas is a dictator in the making and will be seeking the highest elected office in the country.
Sorry, Dems days of lawlessness are numbered.
Did those law enforcement personnel know that he was going to use them as props for his daily poser moment?
Peaches McGee says
Sadly, our governor is another buffoon who cares not of the people’s wishes.
Knock, Knock, Gov…November is just around the corner.
DeSantis lost me when his commercials came out showing his wife and baby daughter, because he was clearly supporting a man who said about women “When you’re a star, you can do anything you want. You can grab them by the pussy.” Sexually assaulting women was just fine by DeSantis, with his baby daughter playing in the background. Anything to get elected. Now, we have a Republican government that is regulating our wombs, hormones and genitals. How does this work for you? How in the hell can you possibly vote for this fascism trash?