BREAKING: DeSantis suspends progressive DA for refusing to enforce laws on abortion, sex-changes for minors

Dude, he’s running. And he’s going to get a lot more popular after today, too, especially for voters tired of progressive district attorneys who refuse to enforce the law. Ron DeSantis appeared at the office of the Hillsborough County Sheriff to announce the suspension of State Attorney Andrew Warren, who had publicly pledged not to prosecute cases under new laws limiting abortion and sex-change operations for minors.

Warren had “put himself above the law,” DeSantis declared, and announced that he was duty-bound as the governor to restore the proper enforcement of laws passed by the legislature:

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he was suspending Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren for not prosecuting certain crimes.

At a news conference in front of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies, DeSantis said Warren has “put himself publicly above the law” by signing letters saying he would not enforce laws prohibiting sex changes for minors or laws limiting abortion.

“Our government is a government of laws, not a government of men,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ team had teased a “major announcement” yesterday, but perhaps no one realized it was this major. (To be fair, Christina Pushaw did predict “the liberal meltdown of the year” last night.) DeSantis accused Warren of violating the public trust by refusing to follow the law. The only state official with a veto power is the governor, DeSantis argued, and even that’s limited by the power of the legislature (via Twitchy):

Can DeSantis make this stick? State attorneys in Florida are the equivalent of district attorneys in other states — elected officials representing specific jurisdictions, not gubernatorial appointees who serve at the pleasure of the executive. Warren serves in the 13th Judicial District based in Hillsborough County, where Tampa is the major metropolitan area. Warren has held this office for over five years after winning his first term in 2016 — apparently part of the George Soros slate of progressives that have won prosecutorial office around the country and who have used prosecutorial discretion widely enough to effectively change law enforcement. And not for the better.

Nevertheless, DeSantis argued today, the fact that Warren got elected to this position does not give him the authority to negate state law within his jurisdiction. And yes, DeSantis noted, he has the authority to take action in cases of “neglect of duty”:

“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,” DeSantis, a Republican, said at a press event planked by law enforcement officers in Tampa, Florida.

The Warren suspension was for “neglect of duty,” according to a release from the governor’s office. Judge Susan Lopez of Hillsborough County will be state attorney during Warren’s suspension.

“We really believe this is a law and order state,” DeSantis said at the press conference. “We are not going to back down from that one inch.”

In fact, governors in Florida do have that authority, although it has likely been used sparingly if at all. The state constitution makes that authority explicit, and it extends not just to state officials but also “any county officer,” emphasis mine:

SECTION 7. Suspensions; filling office during suspensions.

(a) By executive order stating the grounds and filed with the custodian of state records, the governor may suspend from office any state officer not subject to impeachment, any officer of the militia not in the active service of the United States, or any county officer, for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony, and may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension. The suspended officer may at any time before removal be reinstated by the governor.
(b) The senate may, in proceedings prescribed by law, remove from office or reinstate the suspended official and for such purpose the senate may be convened in special session by its president or by a majority of its membership.
(c) By order of the governor any elected municipal officer indicted for crime may be suspended from office until acquitted and the office filled by appointment for the period of suspension, not to extend beyond the term, unless these powers are vested elsewhere by law or the municipal charter.

The move got immediately endorsed by Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, who stood with DeSantis on the dais for the announcement. DeSantis also announced the interim appointment of Judge Susan Lopez, a former prosecutor from the 13th Judicial District, to replace Warren:

Taking over Warren’s position in the meantime, DeSantis appointed County Judge Susan Lopez, who will serve as acting state attorney during Warren’s suspension.

In 2021, the governor appointed Lopez to serve as a Hillsborough County judge.

Lopez has previously served as the Assistant State Attorney in the 13th Judicial Circuit.

“I have the utmost respect for our state laws and I understand the important role that the State Attorney plays in ensuring the safety of our community and the enforcement of our laws,” Lopez said in a statement. “I want to thank the Governor for placing his trust in me, and I promise that I will faithfully execute the duties of this office.

This leaves a few questions, not the least of which will be whether the state senate will act to remove Warren or to reinstate him. That is the only avenue of relief that Warren appears to have in this case. Republicans currently have a 23-16 majority in that body, and Warren’s rogue prosecutorial declarations are not likely to be popular among them. DeSantis stands a good chance of tossing Warren out of the office permanently.

The big question is what impact this will have on DeSantis’ re-election campaign and how it might impact 2024. I suspect it will boost the latter tremendously, giving DeSantis yet another testimonial to his willingness to fight for conservative causes as well as law and order for the national audience. It may have a less robust effect on his present campaign for re-election to this office within his state, but only if Floridians think that crime isn’t an issue and that prosecutors can broadly negate legislatures. The progressive freak-out will certainly take place, but even that will make DeSantis look stronger as a result.