Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis suspended Tampa’s district attorney-elect on Thursday for vowing not to enforce the state’sand to support gender-affirming treatments for minors.
The Republican governor announced the suspension of Hillsborough County District Attorney Andrew Warren at a news conference at the county sheriff’s office, where DeSantis and officers criticized Warren for not prosecuting certain crimes.
“When you flagrantly violate your oath, when you make yourself above the law, you have breached your duty, you have neglected your duty, and you have demonstrated a lack of ability to be able to perform those duties,” DeSantis said to cheers. .
Warren, a Democrat, was elected state’s attorney by Hillsborough County voters in 2016 and 2020. His office did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The suspension comes as DeSantis is running for re-election in Florida and building his national profile as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate through near-constant criticism of liberal policies on abortion, policing and other culture war issues.
Asked if he was overriding the will of voters by suspending their choice of attorney general, DeSantis said Warren’s conduct has fallen “below the standards of the Florida Constitution” and that he has neglected his duty to state law.
“I don’t think the people of Hillsborough County want to have an agenda that’s basically woke up, where you decide that your view of social justice means that certain laws shouldn’t be enforced,” the governor said.
Rep. Fendris Driskel, D-Tampa and a candidate for leader of the Florida House Democratic Caucus, said Warren has used his prosecutorial discretion appropriately.
“I’m not going to mince words: this is a shocking political attack on an elected official who serves the people of Hillsborough County,” he said. “Andrew Warren is stepping aside for assuring our community that he will not be a soldier in Ron DeSandis’ extremist agenda.”
In one executive order officially suspended Warren, DeSantis focused heavily on Warren’s signature of statements where prosecutors from across the country said they would not use their offices to prosecute criminal cases against abortion seekers or providers of sex-affirming treatments.
Florida has not enacted laws criminalizing sex-affirming treatment for minors, but “these statements demonstrate that Warren believes he has the authority to defy the Florida Legislature and invalidate in his jurisdiction criminal laws that disagrees,” the executive order states.
The state’s new abortion restriction went into effect on July 1. It bans abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury, or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow exceptions in cases where the pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.
Violators may face up to five years in prison. Doctors and other health professionals could lose their licenses and face administrative fines of $10,000 for each violation.
The executive order also accuses Warren of having a “deficient and unlawful understanding of his duties as state’s attorney” regarding the “alleged non-execution of certain criminal violations, including trespassing on a place of business, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication and prostitution . “
“The governor’s suspension of Attorney General Warren is not about politics for me. It’s about law and order. It’s about keeping our loved ones safe. It’s about victims and their voices,” said Sheriff Hillsborough County Chad Chronister. He said Warren acts as a kind of “supreme authority by reducing charges, dropping cases and determining on his own what crimes are going to be legal or illegal in our county.”
DeSantis appointed Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez to serve in Warren’s place during his suspension.
“I have the utmost respect for the laws of our state and understand the important role the state’s attorney plays in keeping our community safe and our laws enforced,” Lopez said.