- A federal lawsuit seeking to reappoint suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren was dismissed by a U.S. District Judge on Friday.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Warren via Executive Order in August over an accusation relating to neglect of duty as an elected official.
- The judge wrote in his decision that DeSantis violated Warren’s First Amendment rights and made allegations based on false pretenses.
- Should Warren choose to move forward with litigation to seek reappointment, he can move the case to the Florida Senate for a vote to either uphold or erase the suspension.
A federal lawsuit seeking to reappoint suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Friday. In issuing the order, however, Hinkle noted that Gov. Ron DeSantis violated Warren’s First Amendment rights.
DeSantis announced last August that he was taking executive action to suspend Warren. The governor stated that the suspension was due to a “neglect of duty.”
Notably, DeSantis claimed Warren pledged not to enforce the state’s 15-week abortion law and signed letters stating that he would not enforce laws prohibiting sex changes for minors.
Citing the 11th amendment of the Constitution, which states that the Judicial power of the United States can’t extend to any suit dealing with state law, Hinkle decided that the Federal court was unable to make a ruling.
In his written decision, Hinkle stated that DeSantis’ suspension of Warren was predicated on the 2017 Supreme Court ruling in the Ayala v. Scott case that upheld then-governor Rick Scott’s decision to reassign death penalty-eligible criminal cases away from State Attorney Aramis Ayala after she made a statement that she would never pursue the death penalty.
Hinkle identified that at no point did Warren make a statement similar to Ayala, with contextual background information showing that he never said he would not prosecute a case that absolutely deserved to be prosecuted.
“Quite the contrary,” Hinkle said. “[Warren] said repeatedly that discretion would be exercised at every stage of every case.”
Moreover, Hinkle believed that DeSantis’ accusations and subsequent justifications for the issued suspension were formed on false accusations.
“The governor’s suspension of me is purely political. Period,” Warren told The Capitolist during a September interview.
Hinkle noted in his decision on Friday that DeSantis deliberately targeted Warren for being a Democrat.
“The Governor violated the First Amendment by considering Mr. Warren’s association with the Democratic Party … as motivating factors in the decision,” he wrote.
When issuing the Executive Order, DeSantis cited various prosecutorial decisions, but Warren claimed in his interview that they, too, are formed on false pretenses.
“The Governor hasn’t been able to cite one example where I’ve refused to enforce any law in Florida,” Warren said. “And the reason he hasn’t been able to cite any is that there aren’t any.”
Asked if his public refusal to enforce state law could have a chilling effect on law enforcement efforts by discouraging investigations in the first place, Warren characterized the signed pledge as an expression of his political opinion rather than an advisory to law enforcement agencies in his jurisdiction.
Warren disagreed with the assertion of a chilling effect, though, stating that his office would continue to handle each case that enters his office the same way each one before it has been.
“The premise of the argument is flawed. These were letters in which I voiced my opposition to the laws,” said Warren.
The Capitolist attempted to reach representatives of both Andrew Warren and Ron DeSantis but did not receive immediate responses.