A case against Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis over his replacement of a southern Florida prosecutor who won election by voters twice is going to trial, meaning the governor and his team will have to answer in court for the dismissal of Andrew Warren from his position as Hillsborough County state attorney.
DeSantis replaced Warren, who is a Democrat, with conservative Susan Lopez after Warren pledged he wouldn’t prosecute cases related to obtaining an abortion. Florida has a 15-week abortion ban in place, which is an earlier cut-off than the standard before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and DeSantis already indicated additional restrictions on abortion are possible. Warren never actually altered the course of any case in connection to his stated beliefs about the legitimacy — or lack thereof — behind potential cases over abortion, meaning that in a substantive sense DeSantis acted primarily in response to political statements from the county prosecutor, penalizing an opponent. Warren wanted an immediate reinstatement to his position, and DeSantis wanted, of course, the case dismissed, but Florida Judge Robert Hinkle instead opted at a recent hearing for a trial.
Before DeSantis dismissed him, as the governor has done with other officials like members of a southern Florida school board that pushed mask-wearing policies despite initiatives to the contrary at the state level, Warren also expressed support for gender-affirming medical care for minors. In discussions of the case, Warren equated the governor’s actions against him to overturning an election, considering the local prosecutor’s years of support from voters who are now represented by a temporary replacement from the party opposite his own. Lopez is already making significant policy changes, too — and for his part, Warren was a high-profile target of local conservatives in his years in power, suggesting potentially ulterior motives behind DeSantis’s move.
“The governor now has to answer it to a court of law where facts matter and where you have to tell the truth,” Warren told The Guardian. “It’s a victory for the truth. A federal judge has ruled that the governor has to come into court to explain the reasons behind my suspension, to show that it wasn’t political, to show that it wasn’t in violation of my free speech rights, to show that it wasn’t in violation of the voters’ rights to have the state attorney of their choice.” Notably, DeSantis hasn’t taken action similar to his moves against Warren and the Broward County school board members against sheriffs in Florida who have expressed opposition to and said they wouldn’t enforce certain gun laws.
A trial in the dispute between DeSantis and Warren could start next month — amid the governor’s high-profile campaign for re-election in which he is facing Democratic nominee Charlie Crist, who is himself a former governor of the state, a position he held when still a Republican. Among other points, DeSantis is pushing his supposed pro-parents agenda amid the campaign — an agenda, in the context of education, that actually entails the stifling of and intimidation against free speech, including regarding basic, foundational elements of the human experience like sexual orientation and gender identity, both often discussed without explicitly covering sexual activity.