Florida state attorney Andrew Warren accused Governor Ron DeSantis (R) of “spit[ting] in the face of” voters on Thursday by suspending him for vowing not to criminalize abortion and gender-affirming care, a move the prosecutor argued constitutes an “illegal overreach” and power grab as the GOP governor eyes a presidential run.
DeSantis announced Thursday that he had suspended Warren, who oversaw the state’s 13th judicial circuit, for “neglect of duty” and believing that he “thinks he has the authority to defy the Florida Legislature and nullify . . . criminal laws with which he disagrees.”
Warren hit back in a statement, calling the act a “political stunt” and accusing DeSantis of “using his office to further his own political ambition,” going against voters who “elected me to serve them, not Ron DeSantis.”
The order suspending Warren pointed to a June 2021 letter he and other prosecutors signed, vowing not to use their “limited resources” on enforcing any laws that criminalize transgender people or physicians that provide gender-affirming care, as well as a June 2024 letter from local prosecutors nationwide opposing enforcing abortion-related crimes.
DeSantis has asked a state health board to ban physicians from providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors, but the state legislature has not passed any laws criminalizing transgender health care, and though the state now bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, it remains legal before that point.
Warren is still acting unlawfully regardless of whether there are actual laws in place that he’s violating, DeSantis’ order alleged, accusing him of “presumptive non-enforcement” and trying to be a “‘functional veto’ on the policies of the Florida Legislature.”
DeSantis replaced Warren with Hillsborough County Court Judge Susan Lopez as the judicial district’s prosecutor, who oversees Hillsborough County, which includes the city of Tampa.
“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 said Thursday.
“The constitution of Florida has vested the veto power in the governor, not in individual state attorneys, and so 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 perform those duties,” DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday announcing Warren’s suspension.
Warren’s termination marks the latest instance of DeSantis—widely viewed as a leading candidate for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination—and his administration going after people or entities in the state that have opposed the government’s right-wing policies. In addition to Warren, the governor and Florida lawmakers have also punished Disney for speaking out against the state’s policy known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law; his health department fired an official after he sent a pro-vaccination email; and the governor terminated a data scientist in 2020 who alleges she was ousted for not manipulating data on Covid-19. While Warren was the only Florida-based prosecutor to sign on to the June letter vowing not to prosecute abortion-related crimes, he’s one of many Democratic attorneys who have taken a stand against abortion bans in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. CNN reported in June that district attorneys representing more than 10 million people and more than a third of the 25 most populous counties in states with abortion bans had vowed not to prosecute abortion-related crimes, including prosecutors in such cities as Dallas and Austin, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; and Nashville.
Liberal Prosecutors in Red States Vow Not to Enforce Abortion Bans (Pew Research Trust)