Florida Prosecutor Suspended by DeSantis Sues the Governor in Federal Court

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Hillsborough County, Fla., State Attorney Andrew Warren, suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis over his pledge not to prosecute abortion crimes, filed suit in federal court accusing the governor of a “blatant abuse of power” in suspending him from office.


Warren was elected Hillsborough County State Attorney twice and says that DeSantis can’t suspend him for something he hasn’t done. Indeed, Warren only signed a pledge not to prosecute abortion crimes. While intent should be taken into account, DeSantis claimed the move was consistent with his “law and order” philosophy and characterized Warren’s suspension as removing a progressive prosecutor who refused to enforce laws.

The problem for DeSantis is that announcing an intent not to enforce the law is not the same as actually refusing to enforce the law in a specific case.


Warren’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida, alleges that DeSantis violated his First Amendment rights by suspending him for signing a pledge to not prosecute women for seeking abortions and his public statements opposing the criminalization of transgender people. He is asking the court to throw out DeSantis’ executive order used to suspended him and to rule governors are not allowed to take similar actions moving forward.

It also alleges DeSantis overstepped his authority to suspend elected officials from office because he did so with Warren only for signing pledges, rather than in response to an official action. The issue is likely now headed to the Republican-led Florida Senate, which would have to take action before Warren is formally removed from office.


DeSantis is standing on shaky legal ground. But with the issue before the Florida senate, he still has a good chance of prevailing.

“No decision on any case ever considered by Warren while in office was impacted by these statements,” wrote David B. Singer, an attorney representing Warren, in the lawsuit. “Statements of opinion on matters of public debate do not relate to incompetence within the meaning of the Florida Constitution.”

This is very true, except no legislative body in the country wants its democratically arrived-at decisions challenged or altered by a county prosecutor. His job is to enforce the law — even if he disagrees with that law. There is no moral crisis in deciding whether to enforce a law on abortion or gender-affirming treatment. These are political decisions better left to state legislatures and the governor.

DeSantis’ office said the lawsuit was expected.

“It’s not surprising Warren, who was suspended for refusing to follow the law, would file a legally baseless lawsuit challenging his suspension,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director. “We look forward to responding in court.”

Warren’s lawsuit also notes that he has “never been referred a case involving a request to prosecute abortion-related crimes,” so he has never refused to prosecute under any state law, despite signing the abortion pledge.


Warren may prevail in federal court, but he has no chance to keep his job once the Florida senate votes. This means more legal wrangling over whether the state senate’s judgment will prevail or not.

The lesson for woke prosecutors: keep your opinions to yourself.



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