DeSantis, in show of unchecked one-man rule, now suspends officials over words | Editorial

Gov. Ron DeSantis' suspension of a Tampa Bay-area prosecutor isn't the first time a Republican governor and a Liberal prosecutor have clashed.
In 2017, a central Florida prosecutor announced she would not be pursuing the death penalty, including in the case of a man accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police officer. Then-Gov. Rick Scott removed 30 counts of first-degree murder from Aramis Ayala's office.
Ayala's actions had far more real consequences than the letter Hillsborough County Attorney Andrew Warren signed - along with dozens of state attorneys across the country - pledging not to prosecute crimes related to abortion restrictions. Warren also vowed not to prosecute cases related to restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender children. No case addressing any of these issues has ever reached his office, Warren wrote in an op-ed published in the Herald. Florida does not currently ban or restrict transgender childcare, although that could change under DeSantis, and the state's 15-week abortion ban is being challenged in court.
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The Florida Constitution gives governors sweeping powers to remove elected officials. Whether DeSantis has the legal basis on which to stand is a matter for the courts. Undoubtedly, Warren's promise was as much a political statement as his dismissal was a political stunt. He argues that prosecutors have discretion to choose "who to prosecute for which crimes." However, prosecutors should use this discretion on a case-by-case basis rather than as a blanket guide.
However, Warren's ouster raises concerns about freedom of expression. Can any governor - in Minority Report fashion - fire officials for words before they even act?
The bigger question isn't if DeSantis could suspend a prosecutor, but if he should. Unwritten norms were just as important in protecting American democracy as written laws. As much as Scott punished Ayala - and in the end the Florida Supreme Court sided with him - he never reversed the results of a fair election by executive order. Suspension of a person from office is usually reserved for those who commit crimes or a serious dereliction of duty. For that reason, few people cried badly when DeSantis removed Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel over his office's response to the Parkland shooting.
DeSantis is a powerful governor who is testing the limits of political norms to transform the state into the dream of autocrats - where checks and balances are only on paper.
There is no doubt that the GOP-controlled Florida Senate will approve Warren's suspension. Lawmakers are too scared or too eager to kiss DeSantis' ring. They proved that this year when they delegated redrawing of congressional districts — which fall within the purview of the legislature — to DeSantis. He armed the legislature to pass a new district map that reduces black representation and gives the GOP an advantage. They further calcified DeSantis as the de facto Speaker of the House and President of the Senate when they followed his orders and hastily passed legislation to punish Disney for defying a parental rights law commonly known as Don't Say Gay .
Today, Warren is the target - and even some Liberals might agree that prosecutors shouldn't sign documents that indicate which cases they will prosecute. But as Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg asked in a recent interview with the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, how far will DeSantis go? Under what circumstances can a governor remove someone from office before that official even acts on his word?
Prosecutors run in partisan races, and it's no secret that they subscribe to their respective party's platform. Of course, in this case, it's all about the democratic platform. A Kentucky religious worker became a conservative heroine when she denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a landmark 2015 US Supreme Court ruling.
“Can he remove every Democratic prosecutor in the state? Can he remove a democratic judge?” Brandes said. "Where does the length of this power go?"
DeSantis has an insatiable thirst for political wars and the limelight. He will push and test the limits of what is politically acceptable as far as possible. With no one willing to hold him accountable, he has a free hand.
Ron DeSantis
American politician

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