- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Florida state attorney suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month has sued with a claim that it violated his First Amendment rights, arguing that he is free to express opinions on controversial issues like abortion.

Andrew Warren sued Mr. DeSantis, alleging the governor violated his free speech rights when he was suspended from his position as the state attorney for the 13th District in Florida after he pledged not to prosecute or punish individuals obtaining an abortion.

The 27-page complaint filed Wednesday noted that Mr. Warren has twice been elected into his position and that the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court have established politicians have broad protection for political speech — adding there’s a prohibition on subjecting individuals to “retaliatory actions.”

Additionally, Mr. Warren argues the Florida Constitution provides that the governor only terminates an elected official under “extraordinary circumstances.”

Warren brings this lawsuit to confirm that the First Amendment still applies even though DeSantis is the Governor of Florida and that the Constitution of the State of Florida means what the courts say it means, not whatever DeSantis needs it to mean to silence his critics, promote his loyalists, and subvert the will of the voters,” the lawsuit read.

DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske called the lawsuit “baseless.”

“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,” she said. 

Mr. Warren is asking the court to declare DeSantis’ order terminating Mr. Warren from his position was unlawful and an overreach of power.

Mr. DeSantis, who is a potential Republican presidential contender for 2024, pointed to Mr. Warren’s “neglect of duty” in issuing the suspension, saying he was “incompetent.”

The governor later said he also terminated Mr. Warren for not enforcing laws on transgender surgeries. The lawsuit, though, argues Florida does not have laws about transgender surgeries.

Florida lawmakers passed a 15-week ban on abortion, but that has been blocked by a court.

Mr. Warren was elected to his state attorney position in 2016 and 2020. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice. 

He also claims in the lawsuit that Mr. DeSantis has been a rival for years, noting the governor was critical of his support for arresting a pastor holding church services during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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