Florida prosecutor sues governor over suspension, claiming free speech violations

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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 Aug. 4 in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Douglas R. Clifford/The Tampa Bay Times via the Associated Press.

A Florida prosecutor who was suspended for his positions on abortion and transgender medical care has filed a federal lawsuit against Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa, Florida, in early August after he signed two joint statements issued by Fair and Just Prosecution, a group that focuses on organizing, training and promoting elected prosecutors.

In one, Warren said he wouldn’t prosecute anyone who seeks, provides or supports banned abortions, and in the other, he supported criticism of bills that criminalize medical treatments for transgender people.

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

Warren, who filed his complaint in the Northern District of Florida on Wednesday, contends that the First Amendment mandates that elected officials “be given the widest latitude to express their views on issues of policy.”

“Warren brings this lawsuit to confirm that the First Amendment still applies, even though DeSantis is the governor of Florida, and that the Constitution of the state of Florida means what the courts say it means, not whatever DeSantis needs it to mean to silence his critics, promote his loyalists and subvert the will of the voters,” Warren said in the complaint.

DeSantis previously 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.”

Reuters said in its coverage of the case that DeSantis’ office did not respond to requests for comment.

Under Florida law, state attorneys can decide when to prosecute particular defendants, Warren said in his complaint. However, he added, no decision in any case that he has considered was impacted by his signature on the statement involving abortion.

“Statements of opinion on matters of public debate do not relate to incompetence within the meaning of the Florida Constitution,” Warren said.

As part of his request for relief, Warren is asking to be reinstated to his position.

The Wall Street Journal and CNN also have coverage.

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