This prosecutor seems to think “free speech” means “talk is cheap.”
The elected state attorney who was suspended by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in early August for publicly declaring he would refuse to enforce any laws banning abortion sued DeSantis on Wednesday, demanding reinstatement to the job.
But DeSantis’ office isn’t backing down a bit.
Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren announced the lawsuit in a news conference in Tallahassee, according to The Associated Press.
“If the governor’s allowed to do this, what’s left of democracy?” Warren asked, according to the AP. “If the governor’s allowed to retaliate against me for speaking out, what’s left of the First Amendment?”
He also made the case in a whiny Twitter video that appeared to double as a campaign advertisement for some future political run:
— Andrew Warren (@AndrewWarrenFL) August 17, 2022
Taryn Fenske, director of communications in the governor’s office, was unmoved by the news.
“It’s not surprising Warren, who was suspended for refusing to follow the law, would file a legally baseless lawsuit challenging his suspension,” Fenske said in a statement, according to Fox News.
“We look forward to responding in court.”
In other words: Bring it.
A Democrat — of course — Warren claimed Republican DeSantis had overstepped his authority by suspending Warren for adding his signature to a statement signed by prosecutors from around the country openly declaring they would not follow their state laws regarding abortion restrictions.
The statement was impossible to misinterpret — and DeSantis didn’t.
Issued June 24, in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade and returning the power to regulate abortion to the states, it started by stating that state laws on the topic are inherently illegitimate, declaring that “we cannot stand by and allow members of our community to live in fear of the ramifications of this deeply troubling decision.”
It continued with a long list of grievances related to laws or potential laws related to abortion. It’s all excellent material for men and women who are elected to write laws, but arguments prosecutors have literally no business making (no matter how many George Soros-funded progressives there are pretending otherwise).
It ends with this:
“As elected prosecutors, when we stand in court, we have the privilege and obligation to represent ‘the people.’ All members of our communities are our clients – they elected us to represent them and we are bound to fight for them as we carry out our obligation to pursue justice. Our legislatures may decide to criminalize personal healthcare decisions, but we remain obligated to prosecute only those cases that serve the interests of justice and the people.
“Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice; prosecutors should not be part of that.”
In short, Warren, the sole prosecutor to sign onto the statement in Florida, had declared that he himself — not the voters of Florida — would be the final arbiter of law in the Sunshine State.
You can’t suspend me from the job I’m not doing!
I as the Govt violated citizens rights during Covid but the govt can’t violate my rights! pic.twitter.com/rN7Roy7nOp
— Anthony (@AlaMode4884) August 17, 2022
In announcing Warren’s suspension during an Aug. 4 news conference in the Hillsborough County seat of Tampa, DeSantis cited exactly that reasoning.
“The Constitution of Florida has vested the veto in the governor, not in individual state attorneys. When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty.”
In making that decision, DeSantis was at least paying Warren the compliment of taking his words seriously.
At his news conference Wednesday, according to the AP, Warren claimed that they shouldn’t have been. In Warren’s telling, apparently, words like “cannot stand idly by,” calling abortion law prosecutions a “mockery of justice” and stating flatly that “prosecutors should not be a part of that,” are nothing more than opinions, protected by the First Amendment.
The pledge, he said according to the AP, was a “value statement.”
So for Warren, a man who’s held the prosecutor job in Hillsborough County since an upset election victory in 2016, the opinions of a state attorney carry no more weight than those of a barfly drinking his lunch, a grocery store cashier or a hack writer of political commentary.
Just an opinion, protected by the First Amendment.
DeSantis, clearly disagrees. A prosecutor who publicly joins a statement condemning the enforcement of laws passed by his state’s government is placing himself above the law, and the will of the voters.
Check out DeSantis’ interview last week with conservative talk show host Glenn Beck:
The media called Florida @GovRonDeSantis a “dictator” for suspending a woke prosecutor. But this week on the Glenn Beck Podcast, Gov. DeSantis tells me it had nothing to do with his “dictates”: “When the legislature passes a LAW, they’re presuming that you’re FOLLOWING it.” pic.twitter.com/FRPF9pYSvn
— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 15, 2022
Warren has argued that because he’s won election twice, he represents the voters of Hillsborough County, but that’s nonsense. The job is called “state attorney” for a reason. A “state attorney” who is unwilling to enforce state law has forfeited his right to the title, the office and the trust of his public.
Warren is entitled to his opinion, of course – he’s entitled to it as a man whose employment has been suspended for what amounts to breaking the public trust. He’s entitled to it as a man who’s publicly proven himself incapable or unwilling to carry out his professional responsibilities over his own personal preferences.
He’s entitled to it as a man who needs to learn the lesson that “free speech” doesn’t mean talk is cheap.
Warren’s lawsuit is guaranteed to make news. And, with DeSantis seeking re-election in November, it’s guaranteed favorable coverage in Florida’s laughably biased mainstream media. As any longtime resident of Florida who can read and write can attest, most of the state’s news media — including the once-reliable Associated Press — is just as liberal as DeSantis is conservative, and a good deal less honest about it.
One of the co-authors of the Associated Press story is Brendan Farrington, a reporter with a notorious history with the DeSantis administration. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the state’s largest daily newspaper, was out with an editorial in Warren’s favor within hours of his news conference.
Should this lawsuit be laughed out of court?
Yes: 100% (58 Votes)
No: 0% (0 Votes)
But no matter how positive its news coverage will be in the DeSantis-hating media, the lawsuit is unlikely to get a favorable ruling in any rational court of law. (Check out National Review writer Dan McLaughlin’s take on it here.)
Contempt for the law carries a price. And for a man whose paycheck depends on enforcing the law, that price can be steep. Former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has learned it. Other prosecutors around the country surely need to.
And the response from DeSantis’ office to the suit made it crystal clear.
Hopefully, Warren — and other rogue prosecutors around the country — will be getting the message soon enough.