Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren from the 13th Judicial Circuit, citing “neglect of duty,” and instead appointed Hillsborough County Court Judge Susan Lopez to serve during the suspension period.
State Attorney Warren, according to DeSantis’ statements, had reportedly refused to enforce penalties relating to late-term abortions and sex-change operations performed on minors.
Under Article IV, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution, the governor has the authority to suspend a state 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”.
DeSantis defends Florida law
At a press conference in Hillsborough County, the Republican governor denounced that some state attorneys decide which laws are to their liking and, based on that judgment, make the decision whether or not to impose the weight of the law. After an investigation by his government team, he concluded that Warren “has put himself publicly above the law”.
Governor Ron DeSantis makes an announcement about law enforcement. https://t.co/LfTJ4cUxMJ
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) August 4, 2022
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Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Warren reportedly signed a public letter stating that he would not enforce any state law aimed at protecting the right to life. DeSantis recalled that Florida prohibits abortions after the 15th week of gestation and that the state Constitution grants veto power only to the governor, not to state attorneys.
“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”, said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “It is my duty to hold Florida’s elected officials to the highest standards for the people of Florida. 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 his administration will not allow the “pathogen” of ignoring the law that has become popular around the country, pointing to examples such as California and other states that have caused uncertainty. He also noted that those states have prompted their citizens to leave their cities to move to Florida.
Judge Lopez, meanwhile, thanked the governor for the trust and promised that she will “faithfully” execute the State’s Attorney’s duties. “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”, said the newly appointed State Attorney.
Susan Lopez, a Tampa resident and graduate of Middlebury College and Suffolk University, was appointed by Governor DeSantis to serve as a judge on the Hillsborough County Court in 2021. She previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit for more than 15 years and as a staff attorney for the Second District Court of Appeals.