In his executive order, DeSantis accused Warren of “dereliction of duty” and “incompetence” as Hillsborough County’s state’s attorney.
“To take the position that you have veto power over state laws is untenable,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Tampa surrounded by law enforcement.
Warren responded hours later, accusing DeSantis of “trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County.”
Republican DeSantis’ decision to oust a Democrat, twice elected by Hillsborough voters, drew immediate and sharp rebuke from Democratic state lawmakers and officials. Minority Leader Sen. Lauren Book said DeSantis “behaves more like a dictator than ‘America’s governor.’ use the prosecutor’s discretion”.
“Ron DeSantis is a pathetic bully,” Fried said.
DeSantis said the decision to suspend Warren came after he directed staff to review whether Florida’s state attorneys have “taken it upon themselves to decide which laws they like and which they will enforce,” after watching prosecutors in other states decline to prosecute certain crimes. . This review led them to Warren, who became a strong advocate for criminal justice reform and the abolition of wrongful convictions.
“The governor shouldn’t have come to Hillsborough County and cleaned up our mess,” former Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said at a news conference. – Actually, it depends.
Under Florida law, the governor can remove “any county official” for misconduct, misconduct, dereliction of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, persistent inability to perform official duties, or the commission of a felony. The Florida Senate has the power to reinstate a suspended officer or remove that person from office.
DeSantis appointed Lopez to serve as state’s attorney during Warren’s suspension. He previously appointed Lopez as a district court judge in Hillsborough County. DeSantis told reporters that he had not spoken to Warren before making the announcement.
Warren was first elected state attorney in 2016, defeating a longtime Republican incumbent in a close race that featured a leftward swing in Florida’s bellwether district. He was re-elected in 2020 by winning more votes than President Joe Biden in Hillsborough County.
During his first years in office, Warren kept a relatively low profile as he quietly modernized the bureau and passed criminal justice reforms. in 2018 he endorsed the re-election campaign of the county’s elected Republican Sheriff, Chad Chronister, and frequently held news conferences with law enforcement. For his part, Chronister praised Warren months before the Democratic campaign for a second term.
But Chronister held a news conference Thursday at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and bitingly criticized Warren while standing next to DeSantis. (Chronister’s wife Nicole DeBartolo and father-in-law Edward DeBartolo, a former NFL owner who was granted a presidential pardon by Donald Trump, donated $472,000 to DeSantis’ re-election campaign.)
During the pandemic, Warren became increasingly critical of DeSantis. At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, he publicly blasted the governor’s decision to allow megachurches to operate in Florida just days after the arrest of a Tampa pastor who defiantly served in person. Later that summer, Warren announced that she would not prosecute the 67 people arrested during the protest following the death of George Floyd.
But it was Warren’s foray into the country’s political divide over transgender and abortion care that prompted DeSantis’ action Thursday. Warren last year joined dozens of local and state prosecutors who signed a letter from the progressive organization Fair and Just Prosecution condemning laws that criminalize doctors who provide care for transgender people. After the U.S. Supreme Court voted in Roe v. Wade and struck down constitutional protections for abortion, Warren signed another letter to Fair and Justice, pledging to use her discretion not to use the “limited resources of the criminal justice system” to prosecute those who that seek, provide or support. abortions.
“I think it’s really scary, and again, it’s more than just discretion,” DeSantis said.
More than his predecessors, DeSantis has used his power to remove certain elected officials. In one of the governor’s first acts, DeSantis fired Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who oversaw the police response to the deadly mass shooting at Parkland High School.
However, the previously suspended actions were the result of actions already taken by elected officials. Warren’s ouster is in part because of the steps that have yet to be taken. Notably, the state’s new abortion law is facing a legal challenge, with one judge saying it violates the state constitution, despite a higher court saying otherwise.
Warren said he had not read DeSantis’ executive order, but said he had “heard a lot of speculation and lies.”
“Just based on the governor’s track record with unconstitutional orders,” Warren said, “my feeling is that this is going to be just as unconstitutional.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.