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Judge rules he can't reinstate Warren despite DeSantis violating First Amendment

This combination of photos shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, and Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, left, in Tampa after DeSantis suspended Warren.
Chris O'Meara
/
AP
This combination of photos shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, and Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, left, in Tampa after DeSantis suspended Warren.

A federal judge has ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis violated the First Amendment in suspending Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, but he does not have the power to reinstate Warren.

Judge Robert Hinkle's 59-page ruling, which was issued Friday morning, said DeSantis was wrong when he claimed that Warren had blanket policies not to prosecute certain cases when he suspended him in August.

Hinkle added that, under the U.S. Constitution, his court cannot give Warren his job back.

"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," Hinkle wrote in his ruling. "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.

"Mr. Warren was indeed a reform prosecutor, exactly as he told voters he would be. Disagreements about the proper prosecutorial approach are the stuff on which state-attorney elections properly turn. Disagreements like this are not the stuff on which suspensions properly turn."

Warren filed a lawsuit after DeSantis suspended him for a "neglect of duty" in August, citing Warren's previous comments that he would not enforce any current or potential state laws regarding abortion or transgender health care.

In the suit, Warren claimed DeSantis exceeded his powers and violated Warren's First Amendment right to free speech.

“I’m not going down without a fight," Warren, elected Hillsborough state attorney in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, said in a video announcing he would seek legal action.

Both Warren and Susan Lopez, who was named by DeSantis to replace Warren, are expected to comment later today.

This is a developing story. Stay with WUSF for updates.
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