Prosecutor suspended by DeSantis asks court to reinstate him

Feb 15, 2023, 7:10 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2023, 9:33 am
FILE - This combination of Aug. 4, 2022, images shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and Hillsbor...

FILE - This combination of Aug. 4, 2022, images shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren during separate news conferences in Tampa, Fla. On Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, Warren, a twice-elected, Democratic state prosecutor suspended by DeSantis, filed an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the governor in a renewed bid to get his job back. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

(Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — An elected Florida prosecutor who says he was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis for political gain — and because he is a Democrat — is asking the state Supreme Court to reinstate him, citing a federal judge’s ruling that DeSantis violated state law and his First Amendment rights.

Andrew Warren, a twice-elected state attorney for Hillsborough County, filed the appeal late Wednesday. It comes a month after a federal judge in Tallahassee dismissed his lawsuit on technical grounds while agreeing with Warren that the Republican governor fired him inappropriately.

“We’re asking the Florida Supreme Court to affirm that finding and instruct the Governor to follow the law and reinstate me to office. We’re asking them to reiterate that no one is above the law — not even the Governor,” Warren said in a statement. He is also asking a federal appeals court to reinstate him.

The governor has refused to reinstate the Tampa-based prosecutor, and his press office did not immediately respond Thursday to an email and phone call seeking comment on the latest appeal.

No hearing date has been set. DeSantis appointed four of the seven Florida Supreme Court justices, with the other three appointed by his Republican predecessors.

Warren could also appeal his suspension to the Florida Senate, where Republicans hold a 28-12 advantage.

Warren is citing last month’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who said that while federal law prevents him from returning Warren to office though a lawsuit centering on state law, he agreed that DeSantis’ actions violated both Warren’s First Amendment rights and the Florida Constitution.

Hinkle, who was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, said the evidence showed that DeSantis had no basis to find Warren incompetent or derelict in his duties, the two reasons cited for the suspension.

Instead, DeSantis targeted Warren because he’s a Democrat who has publicly supported abortion and transgender rights and because it would politically benefit him, Hinkle wrote. DeSantis is widely expected to run for president next year.

Hinkle called on DeSantis to voluntarily reinstate Warren “if the facts matter” to him. He said the governor and his staff never did a serious investigation of Warren before suspending him and ignored facts that argued against the dismissal.

The governor had accused Warren of incompetence and neglect of duty, arguing that the prosecutor was picking and choosing which laws to enforce, citing in his executive order the nonprosecution of crimes such as “trespassing at a business location, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, and prostitution.”

DeSantis’ executive order also cited Warren’s endorsement of statements from prosecutors across the country pledging to not bring criminal charges against people seeking, providing or supporting abortion access — and opposed the criminalization of gender transition treatments.

No such cases were ever submitted to Warren, who has said that prosecutorial discretion over which cases to pursue and which to dismiss is a normal part of the job.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Prosecutor suspended by DeSantis asks court to reinstate him