Hillsborough County state attorney Andrew Warren, who was suspended from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is filing a lawsuit in federal court to be reinstated.
“In our country there are protections for freedom and limits on power,” Warren told reporters in Tallahassee after filing the suit Wednesday. “Ron DeSantis may not like them, he may not respect them, but he does have to follow them.”
DeSantis, a Republican, suspended Warren, a Democrat, for Warren’s statement that he wouldn’t prosecute women who seek abortions or doctors who provide them in the wake of the Dobbs decision from the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
In the suit, filed in the North District of Florida, Warren claims DeSantis is violating his First Amendment rights and overstepped his authority by suspending him. It also notes Warren hasn’t received an abortion-related case to prosecute and claims DeSantis’ action is political retaliation for signing a petition saying he wouldn’t prosecute abortion-related cases.
A disagreement on policy matters doesn’t give DeSantis the power to suspend Warren for “incompetency” or “neglect of duty” — two reasons cited by DeSantis in his suspension order — the lawsuit argues.
“A difference of opinion is not ‘incompetency’ as defined by the Florida Constitution. Neither is the exercise of ethically and constitutionally required prosecutorial discretion,” the lawsuit states.
Warren asked the public to donate to his defense fund, but when asked if he would reveal those donors, he didn’t give a direct answer, instead noting DeSantis will use public funds to defend the case after overstepping his authority.
A spokeswoman for DeSantis didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.
Warren said his suspension violates the will of the people who elected him.
“Ron DeSantis is hoping to get away with overturning a fair election; overturning the votes of hundreds of thousands of Floridians,” Warren said.
The lawsuit puts on hold any further action that can be taken against him, and essentially freezes his suspension in place while it plays out in the courts.
DeSantis’ action was a suspension, not a permanent removal from office. The state constitution allows Warren to fight his suspension and undergo a trial in the state Senate, which can vote to uphold the suspension or reinstate him. But Senate rules prevent that process from going forward while any lawsuit over the suspension takes place.