Andrew Warren, a Florida prosecutor and Democrat, was suspended earlier this month for announcing that he refused to prosecute cases that violated his political beliefs. On Tuesday, Warren filed a lawsuit against DeSantis for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights, the Associated Press reported.
The prosecutor was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. DeSantis suspended Warren from office, accusing him of “neglect of duty” when Warren stated that he would not uphold the laws of the state in cases of abortion and child sex-change operations.
The Florida governor declared that prosecutors are allowed to use their discretion when deciding whether or not to prosecute a case but that a “blanket refusal” to pursue any cases involving abortion or gender reassignment surgery for children violates the oath of office.
Warren pushed back during a press conference the day after his suspension was announced, stating, “Just based on the governor’s track record with unconstitutional orders, I have a feeling that this is going to be just as unconstitutional.”
In Warren’s lawsuit, he stated that there was no legal justification for DeSantis to remove him from his position and that he should be reinstated. Instead, the prosecutor alleged that the suspension was nothing more than political retaliation for speaking out against the governor’s policies.
“DeSantis went too far. Employing the powers of his esteemed office as a weapon to suppress criticism and promote cronyism,” the lawsuit read.
Warren argued that “the First Amendment still applies even though DeSantis is the Governor of Florida and that the Constitution of the State of Florida means what the courts say it means, not whatever DeSantis needs it to mean to silence his critics, promote his loyalists, and subvert the will of the voters.”
Several examples of Warren’s political statements were cited in the case. One example stated, “We do not support the use of scarce criminal justice and law enforcement resources on criminalization of doctors who offer medically necessary, safe gender-affirming care to trans youth, parents who safeguard their child’s health and wellbeing by seeking out such treatments, or any individuals who use facilities aligned with their gender identity.”
One statement that did not make its way into the lawsuit was a joint letter by Fair and Just Prosecution that Warren signed in June. A group of prosecutors signed the statement, and it read, “We decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”
In response to the lawsuit, DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, said, “It’s not surprising Warren, who was suspended for refusing to follow the law, would file a legally baseless lawsuit challenging his suspension.”
The Associated Press reported that DeSantis’ team seemed unfazed by the lawsuit.