TAMPA, Fla. - Hillsborough's suspended state attorney filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday, describing the Florida governor's order to suspend him as "blatant abuse."
From Tallahassee, Andrew Warren accused Gov. Ron DeSantis of trying to "overturn a fair election."
"I’m a twice elected prosecutor," Warren said Wednesday morning. "He can disagree with my political views…but the First Amendment doesn’t just protect him, it protects everyone. Even those of us who disagree with him."
In 2020, 369,129 Hillsborough County voters cast their ballot for Warren, which made up 53.4% of the turnout. He was also elected by voters in 2016.
Warren held another news conference in downtown Tampa at 2:30 p.m. This comes as the Florida Senate gave Warren two weeks to request a hearing – one that could determine whether he's reinstated or removed from office.
Gov. DeSantis suspended Warren on Aug. 4, accusing him of taking a "pick-and-choose" approach to prosecutions.
"The role of the state attorney is to apply the law and enforce the law, not pick and choose which laws you like and which laws you don't like," he said. "This is a law and order state. We're not going to back down from that one inch. We're not going to allow locally-elected people to veto what our state has decreed through our legislative process."
The Florida governor said Warren's suspension stems from three main issues:
- Warren's promise not to prosecute women or providers who violate the state's 15-week abortion ban.
- His promise not to prosecute those who provide gender re-assignment surgery for minors
- His general policy of not prosecuting minor or low-level first-time offenses for certain violations
DeSantis' press secretary released a statement on the lawsuit:
"It’s not surprising Warren, who was suspended for refusing to follow the law, would file a legally baseless lawsuit challenging his suspension. We look forward to responding in court."
Warren was among 90 prosecutors from across the country that signed on to the pledge after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the US Supreme Court. The governor also points towards Warren’s commitment not to criminalize minors who have sex change operations.
"There is no issue before my desk regarding abortion, gender-affirming healthcare, in fact, the abortion law in question has been ruled unconstitutional, and the transgender statement there’s no law on the books," Warren said. "This is Orwellian thought police where I’m being punished for not enforcing the law that doesn’t even exist. It’s hard to fathom."
DeSantis has since appointed Hillsborough Judge Susan Lopez to serve in Warren's place. She has reversed several enforcement policies that were put in place by Warren, including the controversial bike-stop policy opponents accused of being racist.
Lopez was appointed by the governor to serve as a Hillsborough County judge in 2021. She previously served as the Assistant State Attorney in the 13th Judicial Circuit.
In a memo sent to her employees this week, Lopez wrote, "effective immediately, any policy my predecessor put in place that called for presumptive non-enforcement of the laws of Florida is immediately rescinded. This includes the bike stop and pedestrian stop policy."
Warren has vowed to fight the decision, calling it an illegal overreach and a political stunt.
Monday, the Senate sent a letter to Warren, notifying him he had 15 days to request a hearing. "If you request a hearing, you will receive a notice of hearing before a special master or committee containing the date, time, and location of the hearing," Debbie Brown, secretary of the Senate, wrote in the certified letter Monday to Warren. "If you do not wish to have a hearing, you may submit your resignation to the governor’s office."
Warren will have 15 days to respond from when he receives the letter. Brown also wrote that a Senate process would be held in "abeyance" if Warren decides to launch a court challenge.
Under the state constitution, DeSantis has the authority to suspend state officials "for reasons of misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony," according to the news release from the governor's office.
During his term, DeSantis removed four individuals from their office:
- Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel following the deadly Parkland school shooting. In May, he was sworn in as the new police chief of Opa-locka in South Florida.
- Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher following a series of controversies during the 2018 election, such as missing the deadline to recount ballots in the U.S. Senate race.
- Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson of the Okaloosa County School District after an investigation into child abuse and failure to report child abuse in the district
- Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad after he was arrested and accused of firing at Pasco County deputies when they tried to serve a warrant at his home. State investigators were charging him with practicing medicine without a license following a four-month-long undercover investigation.