Republican Party

DeSantis Says He Would Use Justice Department To Bring Civil Rights Cases Against 'Soros-Funded Prosecutors'

DeSantis has already removed two reform prosecutors from office in Florida. A federal judge ruled he violated the First Amendment in one of those cases.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested at Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate that he would use the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to bring cases against progressive prosecutors.

"I will use the Justice Department to bring civil rights cases against all of those left-wing Soros-funded prosecutors," DeSantis said during a segment on law enforcement. "We're not going to let them get away with it anymore. We want to reverse this country's decline. We need to choose law and order over rioting and disorder."

DeSantis has a particular penchant for going after reform-minded prosecutors. As Florida governor, he removed two elected state attorneys in Tampa and Orlando for alleged neglect of duty.

DeSantis announced in a press conference last August, flanked by local law enforcement, that he was suspending Andrew Warren, the Tampa-area state attorney, after Warren signed letters saying he would not enforce state laws restricting abortion or transition-related medical care for transgender minors. The suspension order also cited other policies to avoid prosecutions for certain low-level offenses.

And this August, DeSantis suspended Monique Worrell, an Orlando-area state attorney, under similar justifications.

It's unclear what civil rights charges DeSantis thinks he could bring against district attorneys, who already enjoy absolute immunity from civil lawsuits for actions related to their jobs. But he has shown that he's open to stretching the limits of his power to achieve his political goals.

A federal judge ruled in January that DeSantis violated the First Amendment and the Florida Constitution when he suspended Warren, although the judge also found that the court did not have the authority to reinstate the prosecutor.

"In short, the controlling motivations for the suspension were the interest in bringing down a reform prosecutor—a prosecutor whose performance did not match the Governor's law-and-order agenda—and the political benefit that would result," U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida Robert Hinkle wrote in his order. "The actual facts—whether Mr. Warren actually had any blanket nonprosecution policies—did not matter. All that was needed was a pretext to justify the suspension under the Florida Constitution."