In a move straight out of an authoritarian playbook, Governor Ron DeSantis suspended state attorney Andrew Warren on Thursday for what the Florida Republican calls a “neglect of duty,” after the prosecutor announced he wouldn’t enforce the state’s bans on abortion and gender-affirming care.
Ron DeSantis appointed former judge Susan Lopez to assume Warren’s duties.
At a news conference at the county sheriff’s office, DeSantis cited Article IV, Section 7 of the Constitution of the State of Florida for his executive order decision.
“State Attorneys have a duty to prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda, ” said DeSantis. “It is my duty to hold Florida’s elected officials to the highest standards for the people of Florida.”
The governor also accused the progressive state attorney of “violating his oath.”
“When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty, you have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties.”
According to Warren, by not enforcing a bill he calls “unconstitutional,” he is upholding his oath.
“When I became state attorney, I put my hand on the bible. And I swore to uphold the U.S. and the Florida constitution, and under the Florida constitution the 15 week abortion ban is unconstitutional. And it’s not just me saying that, it is a court of law that says that. The governor’s bill has already been thrown out.”
An outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform, the progressive state attorney told reporters at a press conference:
“I haven’t even looked at the order yet. Because I woke up to do my job today, and that’s exactly what I did. I’ve heard it contains a lot of conjecture and lies, and just based on the governor’s track record with unconstitutional orders, I have a feeling that this is going to be just as unconstitutional as the 15-week ban abortion, the anti-protest law and a dozen other things the governor has signed.”
First elected in 2016 after beating the GOP incumbent — and winning again in 2020 — Warren slammed the governor’s executive order in no uncertain terms.
“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,” said Warren in a statement. “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.”
Before leaving, the democratically-elected attorney accused DeSantis of “trying to overthrow democracy,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
“The governor is trying to overthrow the results of a fair and free election – two of them actually. And people need to understand, this isn’t a governor trying to suspend one elected official, this is the governor trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County,” Warren said at his press conference.
Warren called the DeSantis’ order and press conference a “circus.”
“I’m the one upholding the law. I’m the one protecting people’s rights. I’m the only one at this moment who’s actually making sure we’re following the law in Hillsborough County,” Warren said.
Ron DeSantis has been on an authoritarian streak in recent months, but people are pushing back. The recent vote in Kansas to codify abortion rights is just one indication of things to come.
Let’s hope that the people of Florida respond equally vehemently in the state’s gubernatorial election in November.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick