A Florida state attorney whom Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) accused of encouraging lawlessness was Thursday suspended without pay.
The governor’s 10-page order filed at 9:19 a.m. Thursday directed the Hillsborough county sheriff to immediately remove 13th Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney Andrew Warren from his office. The sheriff was further instructed to ensure that Warren did not remove anything from his office that was not clearly a personal item.
DeSantis claimed the state’s constitution allows him to suspend elected officials, such as state attorneys who are not subject to impeachment. The Senate then decides whether to remove the suspended elected official (Fla. Constitution Article IV Section 7 [a][b]).
The Sunshine State’s top executive noted that state attorneys have complete discretion to decide whether to prosecute a particular defendant. He added that such discretion required a state attorney to make case-specific, individualized decisions about whether the facts warrant prosecution.
DeSantis explained that Warren made several public statements over the last 14 months where he announced his blanket policy against prosecuting certain crimes.
“A state attorney’s ‘blanket refusal’ to enforce a criminal law is not an exercise of prosecutorial discretion but is ‘tantamount to a functional veto of state law,'” DeSantis declared. He cited a 1937 state law to argue that a state attorney’s policy to “knowingly permit” criminal activity and “prefer no charges” constitutes neglect of duty.
The Florida Republican asserted Warren demonstrated incompetence and willful defiance of his duties as a state attorney when he joined other elected prosecutors and signed a June 2021 manifesto supporting gender-transition treatments for children and bathroom usage based on gender identity.
Warren acted as a law unto himself by instituting a policy of not enforcing certain criminal violations like trespassing at a business location, disorderly conduct, drunkeness in public and prostitution, DeSantis said.
“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, Warren publicly proclaimed in writing that he will not prosecute individuals who provide abortions in violation of Florida’s criminal laws to protect the life of the unborn child,” claimed the governor. He noted the state ban on abortions beyond 15 weeks of gestation is a felony punishable up to five years imprisonment.
“Warren has effectively nullified these Florida criminal laws in the 13th Judicial Circuit,” DeSantis declared, “thereby eroding the rule of law, encouraging lawlessness, and usurping the exclusive role of the Florida Legislature to define criminal conduct.”
The 13th District’s County Court Judge, Susan Lopez, was appointed to assume the duties of state attorney for the district, effective Thursday.
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