A suspended state attorney in Florida sued Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, claiming that the Republican violated the prosecutor’s constitutional rights by removing him from office and is attempting to thwart the will of Sunshine State voters.
Andrew Warren was the state attorney for Hillsborough County, which includes the city of Tampa, until DeSantis suspended him earlier this month.
The two clashed over what the governor called Warren’s lax approach to prosecuting criminals and the state attorney’s avowed refusal to enforce the state’s 15-week abortion ban or any potential laws restricting gender-affirming care for transgender people.
Warren, who was first elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, claimed in the lawsuit filed in Tampa federal court that DeSantis infringed on his First Amendment rights when the governor ousted him.
“As a result of Warren’s decision to continue to speak out on issues his constituents elected him to pursue, DeSantis suspended Warren from his elected office and has deprived Warren of the ability to perform his duties, of his income, and of the benefits associated with the job,” he says in the 28-page suit.
Warren admitted to joining other prosecutors around the country in signing two statements opposing abortion restrictions and “[b]lls that criminalize safe and crucial medical treatments or the mere public existence of trans people” but maintains that neither statement referred to a particular Florida law.
Despite that, Warren said, DeSantis’ executive order booting him from office cites his signatures on the two statements.
“Of course, DeSantis is free to express his views and his disagreements with Warren as often as he likes. Indeed, the Federal Constitution ensures that he is,” Warren says in the court filing.
“But on Thursday August 4, 2022, DeSantis went too far. Employing the powers of his esteemed office as a weapon to suppress criticism and promote cronyism, DeSantis promulgated Executive Order 22-176 suspending Warren from his duly elected office,” it goes on.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Warren accused the governor of an “illegal abuse of power.”
“There’s so much more at stake here than my job. Ron DeSantis is hoping to get away with overturning a fair election, throwing out the votes of hundreds of thousands of Floridians,” he said.
“By challenging this illegal abuse of power, we can make sure that no governor can toss out the results of an election because he doesn’t like the outcome,” Warren added.
DeSantis, who is likely to enter the 2024 Republican presidential primary race, laid out a litany of accusations of “incompetence” and “neglect of duty” by Warren in the 29-page Aug. 4 executive order that suspended the state attorney.
The governor tapped Susan Lopez, a judge in the district, to replace Warren.
DeSantis’ office said the lawsuit was expected.
“It is not surprising Warren, who was suspended for refusing to follow the law, would file a legally baseless lawsuit challenging his suspension,” DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said in a statement to Politico. “We look forward to responding in court.”
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