(The Hill) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren on Thursday for “neglect of duty” after the prosecutor refused to enforce bans on abortion and transgender surgery.
“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,” DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference in the county sheriff’s office.
Warren, a Democrat, was first elected in 2016 when he defeated the Republican incumbent, and has been an outspoken voice for criminal justice reform.
DeSantis cited Warren’s signing of a letter saying that he would not enforce “prohibitions on sex change operations for minors” and another saying that he would not enforce “any laws related to protecting the right to life” as evidence that the state attorney had shirked his duty as a public prosecutor.
“It’s not for him to put himself above that and say that he’s not going to enforce the laws,” DeSantis said, accusing Warren of acting like he had “veto power” over the state legislature.
DeSantis said that his authority to suspend a state officer comes from Article IV, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution, which says “the governor may suspend from office … any county officer, for malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony, and may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension.”
The governor announced that he would replace Warren with former Judge Susan Lopez.
“I have the utmost respect for our state laws and I understand the important role that the State Attorney plays in ensuring the safety of our community and the enforcement of our laws,” Lopez said in a statement. “I want to thank the Governor for placing his trust in me, and I promise that I will faithfully execute the duties of this office.”
DeSantis emphasized Warren’s rejection of the state’s new law banning abortion after 3 1/2 months, saying that the procedure used for abortions after that time is “really inhumane.”
He also criticized the former state attorney’s opposition to laws prohibiting transgender surgery on minors, which he characterized as “disfiguring young kids.”
He continued: “When you uphold the rule of law, you are protecting the most vulnerable in our society, that’s why we have the rule of law.”
The governor’s speech was followed by remarks from Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, Republican Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, former Tampa Chief of Police Brian Dugan and Republican Rep. Mike Beltran, whose jurisdiction includes part of Hillsborough County.
Chronister followed DeSantis’ speech, saying that he does not consider the move to suspend Warren “political” but rather about law and order.
“There aren’t Republican and Democratic victims, just victims,” Chronister said.
In a statement sent to NewsNation, Warren called his suspension “a political stunt,” and an “illegal overreach,” writing in part that “it spits in the face of the voters of Hillsborough County who have twice elected me to serve them, not Ron DeSantis.”