Michael Beltran: Sacking Andrew Warren was right, and constitutional. Here’s why


Much ink has been spilled over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ installation of a competent and conscientious State Attorney for Hillsborough County, where I have spent most of my adult life attempting to improve our justice system.

Unfortunately, no publication has explained the constitutional provisions that not only allowed, but required, DeSantis to suspend State Attorney Andrew Warren and replace him with Judge Susan Lopez. This decision was not made lightly, or even suddenly, and the Governor, myself, and our law enforcement partners provided an hour of detailed explanation earlier this month.

Unfortunately, the content of our remarks, as opposed to Warren’s complaints, received scant coverage.

Article IV of the State Constitution, Section 1(a), states that the Governor “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed …”

This provision is not a mere suggestion or best practice; it is an affirmative and binding command in the very first sentence of our foundational document controlling our government, including the office of Governor.

Article IV, Section 7(a), states that the Governor “may suspend from office any state officer not subject to impeachment, … any county officer, for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony, and may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension.”

Warren easily met several of these criteria.

Just this summer, Warren’s office turned the “Fish Hawk Kidnapper” loose on bond after failing to move for pretrial detention. This man has been charged with incidents involving actual or potential child victims in Fish Hawk, Lake City and Alabama.

Despite repeated requests from my office and other officials, Warren failed to provide even the courtesy of directly returning a call of another elected official, instead sending staffers to attempt to mollify me in my attempt to advocate for my constituents to be protected from violent crimes against children.

In another recent incident, Warren agreed to no jail time, and dismissal after a short interval of good behavior, for a young man who shot one of my constituents in the back of the head, execution style, to “scare” him. As shown by centuries of penological studies, if dangerous persons are not deterred, confined, punished and rehabilitated, then they will reoffend.

Contrary to the commentary in your publication, the Governor has not improved his already high political standing or advanced any further ambition by sacking Warren, who — as the liberals rightly note in otherwise pervasively erroneous analysis — was elected by the popular vote of Hillsborough County, the Soros manipulation and slim margin in a blue wave election notwithstanding.

As for the suggestion that an elected official may, once elected, derelict his duty with impunity, we need not venture far back into history to see seriatim efforts from the left to undermine Donald Trump, a duly elected Republican President. Even more recently, protesters called for the removal of Supreme Court Justices, who are insulated from popular opinion by constitutional design, while decrying the removal of Warren, who is not.

Warren announced his refusal to prosecute serious crimes against small businesses, law-abiding citizens, women, the unborn, and even young children. Warren’s six-year record of soft on crime prosecution dedication to lawlessness. Nor is “mere talk” insufficient to justify the suspension.

Under our constitution, elected officials include legislators, who draft the laws; the Governor, who signs our laws; State Attorneys, who (are supposed to) file charges; and judges, who adjudicate cases. All of them do only three things: they read, write, and speak.

Warren failed to perform those critical tasks consistent with his constitutional oath.

Warren thereby perpetrated constitutional fraud upon the people of Hillsborough County and breached the social compact enshrined in Article IV of our state constitution. By attempting to exercise an extraconstitutional veto over state law, despite being elected by a narrow margin in Hillsborough County only, Warren disenfranchised millions of Floridians and their legislators from across the state, who are also duly elected.

Warren abdicated his role, violated the separation of powers, and left his constituents unprotected from violent crime.

Unfortunately, a popular election is necessary but not sufficient for continuance in office, which requires an official to perform the duties he swore to perform.

If Warren thinks he knows how to make law better than the Legislature and the Governor, he should run for the state House, instead of remaining absent from the courthouse.

I doubt he would fare very well in south Hillsborough County, where he has undermined my efforts to keep the community safe.


Michael Beltran is the state Representative for House District 57, which covers southeast Hillsborough County.

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