The Florida state Senate will pause its proceedings to remove state attorney Andrew Warren, who was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis for his pledge not to prosecute certain cases, according to a letter penned by Senate President Wilton Simpson on Wednesday.
The Republican governor announced he was suspending Warren, a Democrat, in early August, accusing him of “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” as the elected prosecutor of Hillsborough County, home to Tampa. Warren had pledged not to prosecute those who seek or perform abortions or those who provide gender-affirming treatments.
On Wednesday, within 12 hours of attorneys for Warren filing a motion in federal court to challenge the suspension, the Florida Senate temporarily halted its process to consider removing Warren, Simpson said in a press release.
“Senate counsel notes the pending litigation challenges the entirety of the executive order,” Simpson, a Republican, wrote in his letter Wednesday to Warren and all state senators. “Therefore, the basis for any future Senate proceeding will be impacted by the current litigation.”
In his letter, Simpson asked that senators suspend proceedings related to Warren’s suspension until “a final determination in this pending litigation is rendered.”
Warren’s lawsuit alleges that DeSantis violated the state attorney’s First Amendment rights and exceeded DeSantis’ authority as governor under Florida statute. In his suit, Warren asks the court to order DeSantis to rescind the executive order suspending him and to restore him to office.
Under Florida law, a governor can remove “any county officer” for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony.
Warren had signed on to two separate letters from progressive organization Fair and Just Prosecution, denouncing laws that criminalize doctors who provide gender-affirming care for transgender people and saying prosecutors “have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources” to prosecute those who seek, provide or support abortions.
Warren argued on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday that the “Florida Constitution sets very limited parameters under which a governor can suspend an elected official” and that DeSantis was trying to “substitute his judgment for that of the voters who elected me.”
“He can’t just throw out people’s votes because he disagrees with something that I’ve said,” Warren said of the governor.
On Wednesday, Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for DeSantis, told CNN, “It’s not surprising Warren, who was suspended for refusing to follow the law, would file a legally baseless lawsuit challenging his suspension.
“We look forward to responding in court,” Fenske added.
CNN’s Steve Contorno and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.