Judge: DeSantis violated state Constitution, First Amendment by firing state’s attorney

Despite the decision violated by the Gov. Ron DeSantis violated the Florida Constitution and the First Amendment last year when he suspended Hillsborough County State’s Attorney Andrew Warren, but a federal judge on Friday ruled he did not have the authority. to return Warren to office.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle upheld DeSantis’ dismissal of Warren based on the allegation that the prosecutors, not to make special charges.

“The allegation is false,” Hinkle wrote in a ruling issued Friday morning. “Mr. Warren’s firm rule, followed in every case by every lawyer in the office, is to use the power of the prosecution in all cases. Any reasonable research will confirm this. “

But Hinkle concluded that the US Constitution prohibits a federal court from granting the type of relief Warren is seeking – that is, reinstatement.

Warren and his attorneys are expected to comment on the decision later today.

Susan Lopez, appointed by DeSantis to replace Warren, sent a statement Friday to the state’s attorney’s staff, including 130 attorneys, saying they would continue their work.

“Many people will want to talk about the suspension, the trial, and the decision,” the memo said. “We will continue to focus on the agency’s work.”

DeSantis suspended Warren from office August 4, accusing him of neglecting his duties by refusing to enforce state laws. The governor announced statements signed by Warren and other elected attorneys across the country pledging to refrain from prosecutions involving abortion or public health. The governor also cited Warren’s policy of discouraging the prosecution of minor crimes and cases arising from police arrests of bicyclists. , a practice linked to discrimination.

The governor announced the suspension at a press conference where a campaign advertisement was shown. DeSantis was joined by local law enforcement officials including Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and former Tampa police officer Brian Dugan. Speakers voiced many criticisms of Warren and his policies.

Suit claims political revenge

Two weeks after the suspension, Warren sued DeSantis in federal court, hoping to get his job back. He denied that he refused to enforce the law and said that the suspension was a political reward that violated his right to free speech.

He sought a judge’s order to reinstate him and prohibit DeSantis from taking any further action against him. He framed the trial as a fight for democracy, emphasizing that he was elected twice by Hillsborough County voters.

The case went to trial before Hinkle in late November.

In his decision last Friday, the judge explained the many points he concluded, which is the reason why four The governor was relieved. They included Warren’s pursuit of criminal justice reform, her signing of the abortion pledge, her affiliation with the Democratic Party and her famous relationship with billionaire George Soros, and political success. the suspension of the governor.

The judge did not find evidence that Warren was engaged in misconduct, or that his policies included refusing to commit crimes.

“The statement that Mr. Warren’s duty or incompetence is incorrect,” Hinkle wrote. “This real issue is not imminent.”

“According to this record that reflects, he did the work he was elected to do diligently and competently, just as he told the voters that he would do it,” the judge wrote.

The judge strongly criticized the efforts of the governor’s staff to monitor Warren’s performance – especially Larry Keefe, the governor’s public safety officer.

In court, Keefe testified that DeSantis asked in December 2021 if there were any Florida attorneys who were not following the law. He said the governor criticized the “wake up” prosecutions in other states. Keefe spoke to like-minded police officers, attorneys and Republicans across the state, all of whom pointed to Warren. But he didn’t talk to Warren or anyone else in the state attorney’s office about what was going on there.

The judge said during the trial that Keefe’s questions seemed one sided. And the first examples of the order to suspend Warren have references to Soros, known for funding progressive lawyers and liberal causes throughout the country.

The governor’s lawyer, Ryan Newman, said in his testimony that he had doubts at first about the need to remove Warren, but later he was sure that his action was done. causing him to neglect his duties as a public prosecutor. Warren, Newman said, was “really calling the offense.”

Warren’s decision to sign the abortion and transgender pledge provided justification for a suspension that had already been made, the judge concluded. The governor’s main reason for political success is to bring down “a prosecutor whose performance is inconsistent with the Governor’s law-and-order policy,” Hinkle wrote.

But Hinkle drew a distinction between what Warren said — which is protected by the First Amendment — and her conduct as an elected official, which is governed by state law. Although the judge found that the governor’s actions violated Warren’s right to free speech, he also found that four The governor suspended Warren in connection with his work as a public prosecutor.

Amendments limit a judge’s discretion

The judge cited the 11th Amendment to the US Constitution in ruling that he could not grant Warren’s request for reinstatement. The amendment would bar federal courts from hearing claims against states.

But the judge suggested one solution:

“If the facts are important, the governor can revoke the suspension,” Hinkle wrote. “If he doesn’t, it will be doubly clear that the non-prosecution policy is not the real reason for the suspension.”

This issue was widely recognized by the country and has become the subject of many national speculations. In the poem by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this week in Tampa, both Warren and Lopez participated and threw in the towel, calling them Hillsborough County State’s Attorney.

Tampa attorney Scott Tozian, not connected to the case, noted about Friday’s decision: “Judge Hinkle did everything except reinstate Warren.”

This story was originally published January 20, 2023 11:15 AM.

Article adapted from Miami Herald

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