Senate review of Andrew Warren suspension on hold as lawsuit moves forward

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Senate’s review of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of the Hillsborough County State Attorney is frozen until Warren’s lawsuit challenging the suspension plays out.

The Senate’s review of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren is on pause.

Senate rules state suspension reviews must be put on hold while any legal case surrounding the suspension plays out. After Warren filed suit in federal court Wednesday, Senate President Wilton Simpson wrote a memo to senators letting them know of the halt.

“The basis for any future Senate proceeding will be impacted by the current litigation,” wrote Simpson, a Trilby Republican. “As such, I have directed that any Senate proceedings regarding Executive Order of Suspension 22-176 be held in abeyance until a final determination in this pending litigation has been rendered.”

The state constitution gives the Senate the authority to review any suspension made by the Governor of a public official. Such Senate trials, though, are rare. The last one came in 2019, when the Senate voted to uphold DeSantis’ suspension of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for his actions regarding the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in 2018.

DeSantis suspended Warren on Aug. 4, citing Warren’s signing of a pledge not to prosecute women seeking abortions or their doctors in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. He also cited Warren’s pledge not to enforce bans on health care procedures for transgender people and a lax approach to prosecuting accused criminals.

Warren is challenging the order, claiming it violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and that DeSantis doesn’t have the authority to suspend him over mere policy disagreements.

As he did during the Scott Israel case, Simpson has cautioned Senators not to speak publicly or issue opinions on the case, since they’ll have to sit as de facto jury members if it comes to a Senate trial. He reiterated that caution in his memo.

“As I have said previously, given our constitutional role in this process, I believe Senators should refrain from speaking publicly about the merits or substance of any executive suspension,” Simpson wrote. “Thank you for your attention to this important constitutional responsibility of the Senate.”

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