The Factual BackgroundThe Florida state court system is divided geographically into circuits. Each circuit has an elected “state attorney” who prosecutes criminal cases in that circuit. The job is comparable to that of the district attorney in some other states.
The state attorney for Florida’s 13th judicial circuit, Andrew Warren, is reportedly one of the current crop of leftist prosecutors promoted by “progressive” financier George Soros. Warren joined others in signing statements saying that he would not enforce restrictions on abortion or measures against the “transgender” physical and psychological mutilation of children.
Warren also adopted a policy that slanted prosecutions against automobile drivers and in favor of pedestrians and cyclists. The policy stated that Warren’s office would not prosecute “crimes where the initial encounter between law enforcement and the defendant results from a non-criminal violation in connection with riding a bicycle or a pedestrian violation.”
Flaws in Warren’s ConductAll prosecutors have a certain amount of discretion in deciding which defendants to pursue. Prosecutors traditionally exercise this discretion on a case-by-case basis. This enables prosecutors to adapt justice to the specific facts of a case and, in some cases, to temper justice with mercy.
But prosecutors are not permitted to ignore entire statutes they don’t like. That would give them an absolute veto over state laws—a prerogative not even the governor enjoys. Such conduct violates principles of democratic governance, and is inconsistent with the rule of law.
What DeSantis DidFlorida law provides that the governor, acting as Florida’s chief law enforcement official, may suspend state attorneys for (among other grounds) malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, or incompetence. Warren’s conduct fits within two or more of these categories.
- explains the scope of a prosecutor’s discretion,
- explains how Warren exceeded that discretion,
- explains the legal and constitutional duties of the governor in the circumstances,
- backs up the governor’s action with specific sections of the state constitution and extensive case law, and
- adds 19 pages of exhibits.
The Lesson from How DeSantis Did ItDeSantis’s careful approach made it very hard to argue that he acted improperly. So despite the controversial nature of his order, he has faced relatively little blowback from the establishment media.
It's interesting to compare this approach with that of his ideological ally, Donald Trump. When Trump was president, he sometimes announced decisions in a way that make them seem impulsive or without complete foundation. Even when the decisions were wise and necessary, the mode of issuing them invited attack.
A good example was Trump’s executive order diverting spending from the military to the border wall. The questionable legality of, or at least insufficient support for, the order offered an opening for the assaults of political opponents, professional litigants, and the hostile media.
The Importance of DeSantis’s ActionFreedom, prosperity, and democratic self-governance all depend heavily on a reliable, principled, and honest legal system—what experts call the rule of law. America’s success is due partly to our traditional respect for the rule of law.
A principal reason for this change is the conduct of establishmentarians and of leftists such as Warren, who promote their secular religion over principles of equality, constitutionalism, and democratic self-governance. I’ll provide more details in my next essay.
At this point, suffice to say that Gov. DeSantis’s order is an effort to reverse the rot—that it comes at a critical time—and that other political office holders should learn from what he did and from the careful and intelligent way he did it.