* Was elected State Attorney for Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit in 2016
* Advocates light sentences & alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders
* Vowed not to not prosecute dozens who had been arrested for participating in George Floyd-related riots & protests in 2020
* Supports the Black Lives Matter movement
* Supports the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons
* Was suspended in 2022 by Governor Ron DeSantis for refusing to enforce certain laws that were on the books
Andrew Warren was born in Gainesville, Florida in 1977. He graduated from Brandeis University in 1999 with a B.A. degree in Economics and Political Science, spent a year studying abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science during 1997-1998, and earned a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2002.
After completing his legal education, Warren worked as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti in San Francisco. He then practiced law for an international legal firm based in New York City and Washington, D.C. and was admitted to the Florida Bar on July 10, 2003. Warren then spent a number of years as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice, and in 2013 he received the John Marshall Award for Trial Litigation by then-Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder.
In 2016, Warren, a Democrat, challenged incumbent Republican Mark Ober in a race for State Attorney of Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit, a region that encompassed all of Hillsborough County, including Tampa.
As a candidate, Warren cast his opponent as an overly zealous prosecutor who was obsessed with penalizing even low-level offenders. “We have been so focused on the one goal,” said Warren, “retribution and punishment, that we have lost sight of the other goals: reducing recidivism, rehabilitation, and victims’ rights.” In particular, Warren campaigned on a promise to put a stop to what he characterized as Ober’s tendency to seek unduly harsh penalties — in some cases, capital punishment – for African American defendants. Claiming that Ober’s office was beset by “persistent problems of overzealous prosecutors, ineffective defense lawyers, and racial bias,” Warren went so far as to advocate for the creation, within the State Attorney’s Office, of a brand new unit tasked with identifying past wrongful convictions. Local Tampa NAACP head Yvette Lewis commended Warren’s candidacy against the incumbent Ober: “A lot of people in the community feel like finally we have someone challenging this giant.”
With the help of financial support from a political action committee funded by leftwing billionaire George Soros, Warren upset Ober by a slim margin of fewer than 5,000 votes in the November 2016 election for State Attorney. His victory was considered to be a major win for leftists and criminal-justice-reform activists. Following the election, Warren tried to downplay the magnitude of the boost that his campaign had received from Soros’ financial contributions – and even attempted to cast doubt on whether Soros had given him any money at all. “We think so,” said Warren. “We understand that he gave money to the state [Democratic] Party. And the state party money … went to support different candidates. And I have very little insight into the amount of money he gave, who it went to, etc.”
Warren assumed office as State Attorney of Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit in January 2017.
In a July 2017 interview with the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Warren articulated his vision for the “evolution of criminal justice,” noting that “the ways we’ve been doing things for the past generation are outdated.” He also highlighted the significance of the “cultural shift” that the State Attorney’s Office was experiencing under his leadership, and he noted that the goal of his prosecutors was to be “problem solvers” rather than heavy-handed enforcers. “We’ve made sure to explain to everyone in the office that their job is not simply to treat each case as a person to be prosecuted but rather as a problem to be solved,” Warren stated.
In 2018, Warren was a steadfast supporter of Democrat Andrew Gillum’s failed gubernatorial campaign in Florida. The State Attorney charged that Gillum’s Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, by drawing attention to the Democrat’s demonstrably weak record on crime and his failure to show support for law enforcement, was engaging in “shameful political attacks.”
Just two years into his first term as State Attorney, Warren began publicly emphasizing how vital it would be for the voters in his district to re-elect him in 2020. “You can’t get what you want done [in] one term,” he stated. “It’s about making sure that things evolve and improve along the way … and [being able to] focus on the things that we need to do to keep our system moving forward.”
In 2018 as well, Warren was pleased when Florida Amendment 4 – “The Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative” – was signed into law “to automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole, and probation.”
The following year – on June 28, 2019 — Florida Senate Bill 7066, which was intended to implement parts of the previous year’s Amendment 4, was also signed into law. Among other things, SB 7066 required convicted felons to complete “all terms of sentence” — including full payment of restitution as well as any fines, fees, or costs resulting from their conviction — before their voting rights could be restored. Plaintiffs subsequently filed lawsuits against SB 7066, arguing that it was unconstitutional to require ex-convicts to pay off their fines and fees before they could regain their voting rights. Warren, for his part, joined with the ACLU of Florida in supporting the creation of a “rocket docket” policy authorizing judges to forgive the debts of potentially thousands of defendants and thereby speed up the voter-registration process for those who wished to participate in it, even if they had not paid all the court fees or fines that they owed. “Our goal is to fulfill the promise of Amendment 4,” Warren told the Tampa Bay Times on June 29, 2019. “The focus is on people with lower level crimes who have paid their debt to society.”
In March 2020, Warren issued an arrest warrant for Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of a pentecostal megachurch known as the River at Tampa Bay Church (RTBC). The pastor’s offense was that he had held two in-person services at his church on March 29, which was in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby violating a Hillsborough County coronavirus emergency order that required all gatherings — including those in houses of worship — to be limited to 10 or fewer people. “[To] put parishioners at risk in a time of an emergency like this is not only reckless, but it’s illegal,” Warren stated. “I’d like to note that [I] think it’s unfortunate that the pastor here is hiding behind the First Amendment … it’s absolutely clear that emergency orders like this are constitutional and valid.” Warren even justified Howard-Browne’s arrest by invoking Scripture: “I’d remind the good pastor of Mark 12:31, which says there’s ‘no more important command than to love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Loving your neighbor is protecting them, not jeopardizing their health by exposing them to this deadly virus.”
In stark contrast to his dealings with Rodney Howard-Browne and the RTBC worshipers, Warren announced in June 2020 that he would not prosecute 67 individuals who recently had been arrested for participating in some of the large-scale George Floyd-related riots and protests in the Tampa area. “Prosecuting people for exercising their First Amendment rights creates problems rather than solving them,” Warren explained. “It can weaken the bonds between law enforcement and the community while undermining faith in our system. I’ve said many times that criminal justice reform involves looking at each case as a problem to solve, not just a person to be punished. In these unlawful assembly cases, there is no value in filing charges. Prosecuting people for exercising their First Amendment rights creates problems rather than solving them. It can weaken the bonds between law enforcement and the community, while undermining faith in our system.”
Under Warren’s leadership, the 13th Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney Office also sought to expunge, from the criminal records of the aforementioned protesters, whatever arrests had been made against them during the George Floyd disturbances of 2020.
In June 2020, Warren spoke at a Tampa “Lawyers March” in which some 200 people gathered to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. “We’re here for equal justice under the law,” Warren said. “It’s inscribed on the U.S. Supreme Court that lawyers should be one of the first lines of defense to making sure that everybody in our country is treated fairly and equally. That’s why we’re here.” “It’s important for this community to see their legal community out here,” he added. “… The mission of every attorney should be to uphold the value of equal justice under the law.”
In March 2021, Warren strongly opposed the Republican-led “Combatting Public Disorder” (CPD) bill in the Florida House of Representatives, legislation that sought to: (a) permit citizens to file petitions challenging proposed cuts to police department budgets; (b) allow local governments to be sued for civil liability damages if they failed to take measures to quell riots in progress; and (c) increase the penalties for a long list of specific crimes that could be committed during a riot.
Warren argued that the CPD bill would not help law enforcement quell social unrest, but would instead “tea[r] a couple [of] corners off the Constitution.” “This misguided bill,” he said, “while providing no solution to the challenges faced by the prosecutors and law enforcement, directly undermines First Amendment freedoms by criminalizing peaceful protests by the many based on unlawful conduct by the few.” Warren also claimed that CPD “retreats to the outdated ‘throw-everyone-in-jail’ philosophy that has been revealed as a giant failure — having caused mass incarceration and systemic injustice while perpetuating a revolving door system that undermines the long-term safety of our neighborhoods.” Notwithstanding Warren’s calls to “confront the systemic racism … in the criminal justice system” rather than pass CPD, the bill was signed into Florida law by Governor Ron DeSantis on April 19, 2021.
In late 2021, Warren became Chairman of the Florida Democrats’ new Safety and Justice Task Force. According to FloridaPolitics.com: “The task force will look at three goals: reducing crime by tackling the root causes of criminal behavior and minimizing recidivism; prioritizing prosecutions of the greatest threat to communities, while offering alternatives to [prison for] low-level offenders; and building stronger bonds between law enforcement and communities.” The task force also shared its name with George Soros’ now-dissolved Safety and Justice PAC, through which the multi-billionaire funneled massive sums of money to support the campaigns of leftwing District Attorney candidates throughout the United States.
On August 4, 2022, Warren was suspended by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for purposely declining to enforce certain laws that were on the books. “State Attorneys have a duty to prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “It is my duty to hold Florida’s elected officials to the highest standards for the people of Florida. I have the utmost trust that Judge Susan Lopez [Warren’s replacement] will lead the office through this transition and faithfully uphold the rule of law.” The governor further noted that there was “a lot of frustration on the part of law enforcement for criminals being let go and crimes not being prosecuted” in Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit – a direct result of Warren’s decision to “put himself publicly above the law.” DeSantis supplemented his foregoing public remarks by writing on social media:
Stating that Warren, by his words and actions, had “demonstrated his incompetence and willful defiance of his duties,” DeSantis’ order suspending the State Attorney cited not only some policies that Warren had already put in place, but also some of Warren’s public comments on abortion, transgender issues, and various prosecution-related practices that he was planning to adopt. For example, the governor’s order pointed out that:
“Warren has effectively nullified these Florida criminal laws in the 13th Judicial Circuit, thereby eroding the rule of law, encouraging lawlessness, and usurping the exclusive role of the Florida Legislature to define criminal conduct,” DeSantis’ order summarized.
At an August 4, 2022 news conference, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister confirmed that local police had long been exasperated by Warren’s refusal to prosecute certain types of cases. “I continue to work with my law enforcement counterparts who privately are frustrated with the state attorney, who seems intently focused on empathy for criminals and less interested in pursuing justice for crime victims,” Chronister said. In a similar vein, former Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said: “Andrew Warren is a fraud. This is a terrible day, that the governor had to come and clean up our mess.”
In response to his suspension, Warren wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post where he called upon Floridians to “fight back” against Governor DeSantis for “[violating] the freedoms of people in our state, [and] inventing whatever enemies would help him in his ambition to be the next Donald Trump.” Accusing DeSantis of exercising a “blatant abuse of power,” Warren added:
“Already, the governor has summarily stripped away constitutional rights for millions of people in our state: Black Floridians, who will find it harder to vote because of a DeSantis law that creates unnecessary restrictions targeting election fraud that does not exist. Women, who stand to lose their right to make their own reproductive health choices because of a DeSantis law, which a judge has ruled unconstitutional under state law, severely limiting access to abortion without even exceptions for rape and incest. The LGBTQ community, targeted by the DeSantis ‘don’t say gay’ law that prevents educators from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students.”
In the same op-ed, Warren wrote:
“By attacking me, DeSantis is overruling the will of the voters who have twice elected me. He is selectively ignoring the discretion prosecutors have — and are ethically required to exercise — in setting priorities and deciding who to prosecute for which crimes. And he is violating my right of free speech to call attention to public policies that take away our freedoms…. Today, in Florida, first businesses, then teachers, and now public servants, are being punished if they disagree with or speak out against DeSantis. Our governor’s overreach should alarm anyone who believes in a fair and free democracy, regardless of your political persuasion. And I fear such actions will become part of the political playbook in states around the country if we allow them to stand.”
In an effort to be reinstated as State Attorney in the 13th Judicial Circuit, Warren filed a lawsuit against Governor DeSantis. The trial began on November 29, 2022 and ended three days later. As of January 2023, no decision had yet been rendered in the case.