Andrew Warren, fired by Governor DeSantis for refusing to prosecute abortion-related crimes, pursues reinstatement

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A Florida prosecutor has sued Governor Ron DeSantis (R) seeking reinstatement after he was removed from office for undertaking not to prosecute any cases arising from 15-week abortion ban in Florida and potential bans on gender-affirming care.

Hillsborough County State’s Attorney Andrew Warren (D) argued his Aug. 4 suspension was unlawful on First Amendment grounds and called his removal a “retaliation” by DeSantis against a critic and political rival, according to a federal complaint. deposit Wednesday in the Northern District of Florida.

DeSantis suspends elected Democratic prosecutor who signed pledge on abortion cases

In a video message, Warren said that in addition to violating his free speech rights, DeSantis broke Florida law.

“He violated the Constitution of Florida by removing me from office without any legal justification, rejecting the results of a fair and free election,” Warren said.

DeSantis’ office dismissed Warren’s federal complaint as “without merit.”

“It’s no surprise that Warren, who was suspended for refusing to follow the law, is filing a lawsuit without legal basis to challenge his suspension. We look forward to responding in court,” a DeSantis spokesperson said in a statement.

Warren has been in office since 2016 and won re-election in 2020 with over 53% of the vote.

DeSantis suspending Warren and replacing him with someone he chooses sets an ominous tone for democracy in Florida, Louis Virelli, a law professor at Stetson University College of Law, told The Washington Post.

“One small step from here is if, as governor, I don’t think a state attorney is tough enough for a particular crime, I’m going to replace you with someone I prefer,” Virelli said. “That takes precedence over voter choice.”

Virelli said the complaint is one of the few options available to Warren if he wants to keep his job.

Part of Warren’s argument in the complaint is that the Florida Constitution limits dismissal to genuine incompetence or inability to do the job and breach of legal duty.

“Warren is being punished for what he said and not for what he did,” Virelli said.

Shortly after Warren was suspended, her office’s communications manager was told she had to resign and be paid throughout the month – or be fired on the spot.

Melanie Snow-Waxler, who began her role with the state’s attorney’s office in May, was fired Aug. 12.

“This unlawful termination is part of a troubling pattern of retaliation,” his attorney, Ryan Barack, said in a statement this week.

DeSantis and Warren are ideological opposites who have publicly argued over topics including abortion, covid restrictions, criminal justice and transgender rights.

In June, the day the Dobbs vs. Jackson ruling was issued, effectively ending the federal right to abortion access, Warren joined dozens of prosecutors across the country in signing a pledge that they “would refrain from using the limited resources of the criminal justice system to criminalize personal medical decisions”.

In 2021, Warren signed a similar joint statement with other elected prosecutors saying health care decisions should be a matter of “private discretion” and said they would not use their office to “promote the criminalization of gender-affirming or transgender health care”.

The DeSantis administration pursued aggressive policies to increasingly restrict medical treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy; last week, the state banned people from using Medicare coverage to help pay for gender-affirming care.

Florida bans Medicaid coverage for those seeking gender-affirming care

Since Warren’s suspension, he and DeSantis have been at odds over the nature of the suspension. While Warren called his suspension “temporary” in his filing, DeSantis’ office said Warren was no longer the Hillsborough County 13th Judicial Circuit prosecutor after the governor nominated Susan Lopez, a Republican judge who supported Warren’s opponent in 2016.

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