State High Court Won't Reinstate Prosecutor Fired By DeSantis

Andrew Warren waited too long to file petition, justices say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2023 5:30 PM CST
Updated Jun 22, 2023 5:10 PM CDT
Court Backs Prosecutor Removed by DeSantis
Andrew Warren speaks Friday during a news conference in Tampa.   (Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
UPDATE Jun 22, 2023 5:10 PM CDT

Florida's Supreme Court declined Thursday to Andrew Warren, the Hillsborough County prosecutor until he was fired by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis after saying he was against prosecutions over abortions and gender-affirming health care, his job back. The justices said Warren, who contended that DeSantis abused his power, had taken too long to file his petition. The vote was 6-1, the AP reports. "Rather than addressing the substance of the governor's illegal action," Warren said in a statement, "the Court cited a technicality and avoided a ruling on the merits." The court suggested Warren try his luck in the state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, and said it could reconsider a later refiling.

Jan 20, 2023 5:30 PM CST

A federal judge ruled Friday that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis violated the First Amendment and the Florida Constitution by removing an elected state prosecutor, but that the federal courts lack the power to reinstate him. In an order dismissing the case, US District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote that federal law prevents him from returning elected prosecutor Andrew Warren to office in a lawsuit that centered on Florida law, the AP reports. DeSantis suspended Warren last year over the prosecutor's signing of statements that said he would not pursue criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender transition treatments, as well as policies about not charging people with some minor crimes.

Warren—a twice-elected, Democratic state attorney in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa—sued the governor in federal court to get his job back. "The idea that a governor can break federal and state law to suspend an elected official should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cares about free speech, the integrity of our elections or the rule of law," Warren said at a brief press conference Friday. "This is not over," he told reporters. Warren testified that he was suspended over his personal political positions on abortion rights and transgender issues. He said his office applied prosecutorial discretion over whether to bring charges in all cases, considering public safety and other factors.

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Hinkle's decision largely sides with Warren's arguments but finds that the case is effectively a state matter that cannot be resolved by a federal judge, per the AP. "Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended elected State Attorney Andrew H. Warren, ostensibly on the ground that Mr. Warren had blanket policies not to prosecute certain kinds of cases. The allegation was false," Hinkle wrote. "But the Eleventh Amendment prohibits a federal court from awarding declaratory or injunctive relief of the kind at issue against a state official based only on a violation of state law," he added. DeSantis' office did not immediately answer a request for comment.

(More Florida stories.)

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