Florida governor suspends 'woke' elected prosecutor, citing pledges on transgender care, abortion

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AP Andrew Warren

State Attorney Andrew Warren attends a press conference hours after Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended him because of neglect of duty Thursday in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Douglas R. Clifford/The Tampa Bay Times via the Associated Press.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he was suspending the elected state attorney in Hillsborough County, Florida, for “woke” positions on abortion and transgender medical care.

DeSantis cited “neglect of duty” as the reason for the unpaid suspension of State Attorney Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit. A press release is here, and the governor’s executive order is here.

The Ocala StarBanner, Reuters, Law360 and WUSF are among the publications with coverage.

DeSantis objected to Warren’s decision to sign two joint statements issued by Fair and Just Prosecution, a group that focuses on organizing, training and promoting elected prosecutors. One criticized bills that criminalize medical treatments for transgender people. The other said Warren would not prosecute anyone who seeks, provides or supports banned abortions.

DeSantis also criticized Warren for refusing to prosecute crimes involving bike-riding or pedestrian infractions and some misdemeanor crimes, such as resisting arrest without violence.

“I don’t think the people of Hillsborough County want to have an agenda that is basically woke,” DeSantis said.

Florida has a 15-week abortion ban. But it has not enacted any laws regarding bathroom usage and gender-affirming medical care for children.

DeSantis said he had the authority under the Florida Constitution to suspend state officials for “misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties or commission of a felony.”

State attorneys are not eligible for impeachment, making them eligible for suspension by the governor and removal by the Florida Senate, DeSantis said in his executive order. Any Senate vote on Warren probably won’t happen until after elections in November, according to the Ocala StarBanner.

State attorneys have discretion when deciding whether to prosecute a particular defendant, but they should make case-specific decisions on whether the facts warrant prosecution, the executive order said. A blanket refusal to enforce a law is not an exercise of discretion; instead, it is tantamount to a veto of state law, the order said.

DeSantis is a Republican, while Warren is a Democrat. Warren said in a statement DeSantis’ decision is a “political stunt” that “spits in the face of the voters of Hillsborough County who have twice elected me to serve them, not Ron DeSantis.”

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