Gov. DeSantis Issues Executive Order for State Attorney
August 12, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements Social Share
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has just suspended one of the top prosecutors in Hillsborough County. State Attorney Andrew Warren has been temporarily suspended, which could become permanent depending on the outcome of a Senate trial.
We will cover the details of the case, along with how the newly appointed State Attorney could affect issues on criminal justice.
State Attorney Suspended
On August 4th, Gov. DeSantis announced that he was issuing an executive order to suspend Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren. The reason for the decision was based on several comments Warren made about not enforcing any current or potential state laws—specifically on abortion and transgender health care.
Warren signed a letter back in June to promise that he would not prosecute individuals who would provide or seek abortions. The letter was posted shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned, and after DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion limit that would potentially charge providers or seekers with a third-degree felony for violating.
The letter that Warren signed was published by the Fair and Just Prosecution, which is an organization that aims to bring together local prosecutors to promote a “justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility.”
According to the executive order, DeSantis claimed that Warren “thinks he has the authority to defy the Florida Legislature and nullify in his jurisdiction criminal laws with which he disagrees.”
Warren’s suspension is now currently under review by the state’s Senate to decide whether or not the suspension will become permanent. Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson sent out a memorandum to fellow senators regarding Warren’s fate.
According to his memo, Simpson wrote that the first step for addressing the suspension is “to inform the suspended official of the Senate’s receipt of the governor’s suspension action and to inquire whether it is the intention of the suspended official to resign from office or request a hearing.”
Warren’s response to the suspension was a video he posted on Facebook, in which he accused DeSantis of “abusing his power to serve his own political ambition.” The following is a statement from Warren’s video:
“He [DeSantis] came down to Tampa—to Hillsborough County—to illegally remove me as part of some political circus. He did it because he wants to throw women and their doctors in jail based on a law that has already been found to violate Florida’s Constitution. He did it because he wants to enforce a law that discriminates against our LGBTQ+ community—a law that, at this point, doesn’t even exist. We won’t let him get away with it.
I’m not going down without a fight. I’m a former federal prosecutor, the duly elected State Attorney, a native Floridian, and a proud American. I refuse to let this man trample on your freedoms to speak your mind, to make your own healthcare decisions, and to have your vote count.”
The news release stated that the State Attorney was escorted out of his office by an armed police officer from Hillsborough County and was not permitted to address any of his 300 employees after the suspension. Warren stated that he is getting together a legal team, and that he will announce his plans in the upcoming days.
Newly Appointed Attorney
After suspending Warren, DeSantis was quick to appoint Susan Lopez who has been a judge in Hillsborough County since 2021. Lopez will be serving for the 13th Judicial Circuit while Warren awaits to hear whether his suspension is permanent.
Lopez has already expressed an intent to reverse several policies made by Warren while he was in office.. “It is my intention to bring this agency back to basics,” Lopez wrote. “The legislature makes the law and we as prosecutors enforce it.”
So, what does this mean for Florida citizens? While Lopez’s memo didn’t directly address the new abortion law, it is clear that she is planning to adjust prosecution policies that were originally signed or ignored by Warren, including anti-prosecution policies like police stopping cyclists and pedestrians, newly-implemented abortion laws, and decisions to not impose mandatory minimum sentences for specific crimes.
“We will not delegate our ethical and legal responsibilities to think tanks or advocacy groups,” Lopez wrote in the memo. “We will be prosecutors working with law enforcement, standing up for victims of crime and obeying the law.”
Since being appointed, Lopez convened with the Bureau’s Homicide Committee to carry out the capital punishment in a murder case. She filed a notice to seek the death penalty for Matthew Terry, a man who is accused of murdering his girlfriend. Warren had previously declined to seek the death penalty, so Lopez has now reversed the decision.
You can read more about Matthew Terry’s case here.
Members of the Florida Senate are trying to figure out the best way to move forward after Warren’s suspension. President Wilton Simpson’s memo sent out to senators urges them to review the procedures and rules for handling this type of suspension.
During a conference call about the Inflation Reduction Act, Senator Lori Berman gave the following comment regarding Warren’s suspension: “I really have some concerns about what the governor did. So, I would like to understand what the basis is for why he did dismiss Mr. Warren, and I would like for us to have a full Senate trial on it.” Berman is encouraging her colleagues to review the suspension, and that she hopes they don’t “rubber-stamp anything.”
In Simpson’s memo he wrote: “In my view, since we are tasked by Florida’s Constitution to sit in judgement of the merits of a suspension, senators should refrain from speaking publicly about the merits or substance of any executive suspension.”
During DeSantis’ announcement of the executive order, he said that State Attorneys have the duty to “prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda.” He continued: “It is my duty to hold Florida’s elected officials to the highest standards in violation of Florida’s criminal laws to protect the life of the unborn child.”
Warren has claimed that the action to suspend him has “spit in the face of voters of Hillsborough County who have twice elected me to serve them, not Ron DeSantis. He continues: “In our community, crime is low, our Constitutional rights—including the right to privacy—are being upheld, and the people have the right to elect their own leaders—not have them dictated by an aspiring presidential candidate who has shown time and again he feels accountable to no one…Just because the governor violates your rights, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, make it your top priority to reach out to a skilled defense attorney in your area. A criminal conviction can lead to harsh consequences, and it may seem intimidating to go it alone. Luckily the team at Pumphrey Law Firm will vow to stand by your side throughout the entire process. Don Pumphrey has represented clients across the state for various charges. We understand the importance of building a strong defense and promise to stand in your corner to fight for your freedom. For a free consultation today call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message.
Written by Karissa Key