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DeSantis suspends state attorney who said he won't enforce abortion laws

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren on Aug. 4, 2022, pointing to comments Warren has made that he would not enforce any current or potential state laws regarding abortion or transgender health care.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
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Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren on Aug. 4, 2022, pointing to comments Warren has made that he would not enforce any current or potential state laws regarding abortion or transgender health care.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he is suspending State Attorney Andrew Warren in Hillsborough County for refusing to enforce Florida laws.

DeSantis was surrounded by law enforcement officials during a news conference at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office when he made the announcement.

He pointed to Warren's statement that he would not enforce any current or potential state laws regarding abortion or transgender health care, as one of the reasons for the suspension.

Warren, a Democrat, was one of dozens of state attorneys around the country who signed a letter vowing not to press charges against people who seek or provide abortions. He has called Florida's 15-week ban "arbitrary" and "unconstitutional."

"It is not for him to put himself above that and say that he's not going to enforce the laws," DeSantis said. "We don't elect people in one part of the state to have veto power over what the entire state decides on these important issues."

According to an executive order issued by DeSantis, Warren "thinks he has the authority to defy the Florida Legislature and nullify in his jurisdiction criminal laws with which he disagrees."

“State Attorneys have a duty to prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda,” DeSantis said in a news release. “It is my duty to hold Florida’s elected officials to the highest standards for the people of Florida."

The order also cites Warren proclaiming "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."

Democrats blasted DeSantis and labeled him a dictator.

“This offensive power grab by Governor DeSantis plays politics with public safety and is in line with DeSantis’ record of stripping freedoms from Floridians — women, duly elected school and local government officials, individuals and private businesses, or anyone else who simply dares to disagree with him," Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said in a statement. "Ron DeSantis doesn’t give a damn about our freedoms. He is a direct threat to all of our freedoms.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a candidate for governor, issued a statement headlined, "The wannabe dictator strikes again." Warren was suspended, Fried said, "because he stood up for our freedoms and stood again DeSantis' authoritarian dictatorship."

Fried's opponent in the Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, also called DeSantis a "wannabee dictator" who "doesn't give a damn about women or average Floridians. It's a flagrant abuse of power.."

Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book said: "With his removal of a duly elected Democratic State Attorney who refused to enforce Florida’s extreme abortion ban, Ron DeSantis is behaving more like a dictator than 'America’s Governor.' Ron DeSantis continues to make it shamefully clear that he will always put partisan politics over the democratic will of the people.”

DeSantis appointed Susan Lopez, a Hillsborough County judge since 2021, to serve as state attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit while Warren serves his suspension.

"I have the utmost trust that Judge Susan Lopez will lead the office through this transition and faithfully uphold the rule of law,” DeSantis said in the release.

Lopez previously served as assistant state attorney of the 13th Judicial Circuit for more than 15 years and as staff attorney of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Under the state Constitution, DeSantis has the authority to suspend state officials "for reasons of misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony," according to the release.

DeSantis didn't say how long the suspension will run.

WUSF reporter Stephanie Colombini and WJCT News contributed to this report.

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