Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis recently fired prosecutor Andrew Warren in what is now another political battle over abortion and transgender issues. Warren, a Democrat, is the twice-elected “state attorney,” or county prosecutor, covering Florida’s 13th Judicial District, including Tampa. DeSantis, the Republican presidential maybe, removed the attorney from his job for promising not to prosecute certain crimes. Mr. Warren and his supporters claim he was targeted for political speech, not any improper action, and he has vowed to appeal the governor’s order.
Run Out on a Rail by Ron DeSantis
Warren was officially suspended by executive order on August 4. He wasn’t warned about the action and was escorted from his office by an armed sheriff’s deputy. The following day, the former prosecutor appeared with Joy Reid on MSNBC and said:
“This is about the governor running for president. This is political theater plain and simple. And anyone who cares about democracy and free speech should be scared by this. This is a core principle of our democracy that the voters get to decide who their elected officials are. Even my eight-year-old understands that.”
DeSantis’ order includes a list of items supporting a finding that “The actions and omissions of Andrew Warren as referenced above constitute ‘neglect of duty’ and ‘incompetence’” under Florida’s Constitution. That list includes pledges not to prosecute certain crimes against laws both on the books and those that might be enacted in the future. These promises came chiefly in the form of Warren’s signature on public statements from Fair and Just Prosecution, a progressive group for left-wing prosecutors.
Mr. Warren pledged “he would not enforce criminal laws enacted by the Florida Legislature that prohibit providers from performing certain abortions to protect the lives of unborn children.” A statement Warren signed on “trans rights” says, “[W]e pledge to use our discretion and not promote the criminalization of gender affirming healthcare or trans gender people.”
Governor DeSantis wrote in response, “Although the Florida Legislature has not enacted such criminal laws, these statements prove that Warren thinks he has authority to defy the Florida Legislature and nullify in his jurisdiction criminal laws with which he disagrees.”
Crime and No Punishment?
The order also claims that Warren “has acted as a law unto himself by instituting a policy during his current term of presumptive non-enforcement for certain criminal violations, including trespassing at a business location, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, and prostitution.” Brian Dugan, former Tampa police chief, called Warren a “fraud” for lying to people about crimes during 2020 riots. “He said there were no acts of violence, no property damage. He must’ve not read the police reports,” Dugan said, adding there were photos of damage to police patrol vehicles. “Where I come from, you’re lying. I’m not elected. I was appointed. I’m here because I believe in keeping this community safe.”
DeSantis’ order removes the prosecutor from office and appoints Susan Lopez to replace him. Lopez takes the position from her job as a county judge, appointed to the bench by DeSantis in 2021. She was a former prosecutor in the office with Warren and supported his opponent. Mr. Warren has no legal powers, but he still holds elected constitutional officer status. His fate will be decided by the Florida Senate, held by a 23-16 Republican majority.