Court: DeSantis' Suspension Violated Two Constitutions

Judge says it's not in his power to give Andrew Warren his job back
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2023 5:30 PM CST
Court Backs Prosecutor Removed by DeSantis
Andrew Warren speaks Friday during a news conference in Tampa.   (Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

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.

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.

(Read more Florida stories.)

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