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Elected official sues to get his job back after DeSantis suspension over abortion law

Elected official sues to get his job back after DeSantis suspension over abortion law
County prosecutor Andrew Warren accuses Florida governor of ‘throwing out the results of a free and fair election’ by unjustly removing him from office

A twice-elected Florida prosecutor is suing to get his job back after Ron DeSantis removed him from office after joining dozens of officials from across the US who refuse to prosecute abortion providers and doctors who provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth.

Andrew Warren, the 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney, condemned the Republican governor’s “blatant abuse of power” and accused him of violating his First Amendment rights by retaliating against his position on abortion rights, according to a video statement on 17 August

Mr Warren has also accused the governor of violating the state constitution and “throwing out the results of a free and fair election” by unjustly removing him from office without legal justification. Mr Warren was elected to office in 2016 and re-elected in 2020.

A federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday asserts that the state constitution “means what the court says it means, not whatever DeSantis needs it to mean to silence his critics, promote his loyalists, and subvert the will of the voters”.

Mr Warren was among more than 100 prosecutors and officials who have pledged against prosecuting abortion providers and patients in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion, as more than a dozen states prepare to enact anti-abortion laws and severely restrict abortion access.

Florida’s anti-abortion ban outlaws the procedure at 15 weeks of pregnancy and makes no exception for rape or incest.

Mr Warren also signed another pledge to use “discretion and not promote the criminalization of gender-affirming healthcare or transgender people”.

Both statements are included as evidence in the governor’s executive order dismissing Mr Warren, announced during a press conference on 4 August surrounded by law enforcement.

There are no current Florida laws that criminalise gender-affirming care or transgender people or pregnant people.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Warren said he was “forced out of office by an armed deputy, removed from my position, and replaced by a Ron Desantis accomplice”.

The governor’s executive order accuses Mr Warren of “incompetence” and “willfull defiance of his duties”, pointing to his signature on a pledge against criminalising gender-affirming care for transgender youth and support for transgender people to use bathrooms that match their gender.

The order recognises that there are no such current laws criminalising transgender healthcare and bathroom use, but the governor claimed that the statements “prove that Warren thinks he has the authority to to defy” the state legislature and “nullify” state laws with which he disagrees.

Mr Warren’s pledge against criminalising abortion care has effectively “nullified” Florida law, thereby “eroding the rule of law, encouraging lawlessness, and usurping” state lawmakers, according to Mr DeSantis.

His “declared refusal to prosecute abortion cases is alone sufficient to justify his suspension and removal for neglect of duty and incompetence,” the governor’s order states.

Meanwhile, the state has advanced several measures to deny trans youth access to gender-affirming care, while joining at least 10 other states that have moved to prohibit adult transgender Medicaid patients from accessing such care under the federal health programme for low-income Americans.

Florida’s Board of Medicine is mulling debunked guidelines supported by the governor’s surgeon general to approve new rules that would deny gender-affirming care to transgender young people in the state, despite federal guidelines and guidance from leading medical groups.

The Independent has requested comment from the governor’s office.