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DeSantis says he won't reinstate suspended Hillsborough prosecutor

Former Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren speaks outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Tallahassee, Florida following a hearing on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.
Valerie Crowder
Former Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren speaks outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Tallahassee, Florida following a hearing on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.

Former Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren has sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking for his job back after a federal judge found the governor had violated Warren's free speech rights.

“The judge’s ruling is crystal clear: the governor’s accusations against me were totally false and the suspension was illegal," Warren wrote in an emailed statement. "I think if you ask anyone who believes in the rule of law, they’ll tell you what the governor should do is obvious.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a ruling that found DeSantis had violated the state constitution and the U.S. constitution when he removed Warren from his post.

DeSantis suspended Warren in August, a couple months after the former state attorney signed a joint-statement with prosecutors from across the U.S. promising to "refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions."

It came after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade guaranteeing a constitutional right to an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

Warren signed another statement in June 2021, pledging not to criminalize people who seek transgender-related medical treatments.

Both statements were published online by Fair and Just Prosecution, a network of prosecutors "committed to promoting a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility."

Warren noted in his letter to DeSantis that Judge Hinkle found "not a hint of misconduct" on behalf of Warren and that his office "had no blanket nonprosecution policies," despite the governor's assertion that Warren intended to not carry out his duty to prosecute violations of state law.

Hinkle said that he lacked the authority as a federal judge to reinstate a state official, even though he found DeSantis had violated Warren's constitutional right to free speech.

Gov. Ron DeSantis' Deputy Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern issued the following statement in response to the Warren's letter:

"Andrew Warren, of all people, should understand the distinction between legal dicta and the holding of a court’s decision.

The failures that motivated the suspension were Mr. Warren’s actual performance—not advocacy—as a reform prosecutor.

Mr. Warren signed a statement refusing to prosecute the laws of the land. Thus, the governor removed Mr. Warren for neglect of duty and incompetence. Public prosecutors cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce.

In its lengthy opinion, the Court attempted to usurp the Florida Senate’s constitutional authority to make a determination on Mr. Warren’s neglect of duty and incompetence. It is the Florida Senate that is to rightly serve as the ultimate factfinder in this case.

We do not agree with the Court’s dicta, which are merely opinions, and need not address them since the Court ultimately determined it lacked jurisdiction and thus ruled in favor of the governor. Mr. Warren remains suspended from the office he failed to serve."

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.