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April 13, 2023
A federal judge in Florida condemned Governor Ron DeSantis for violating the 1st amendment, however the judge did uphold DeSantis’ suspension of a state prosecutor who DeSantis described as “woke.”
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued the ruling Friday. The main issue of the case was the reason behind DeSantis’ suspension of Andrew Warren, a Democrat who was reelected in 2020 as the top state prosecutor in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County after making criminal justice reform the focal point of his campaign.
According to DeSantis’ executive order which led to Warren’s suspension in August, the state attorney demonstrated “incompetence and willful defiance of his duties” by implementing certain “policies of presumptive non-enforcement” and by co-signing a left-leaning advocacy group’s public statements about state laws criminalizing gender-affirming care and abortions.
Hinkle wrote in his ruling, “The assertion that Mr. Warren neglected his duty or was incompetent is incorrect. This factual issue is not close.”
“Running a state attorney’s office is the state attorney’s job, not the governor’s,” Hinkle wrote. “A governor cannot properly suspend a state attorney based on policy differences.”
Hinkle said that, while he fully accepts the decision to dismiss Warren was wrong, he did concede that it is not within the court’s power to reinstate him, went onto rule in favour of DeSantis.
Following Roe V Wade being overturned by The US Supreme Court last year, Warren allied himself with over 80 local, elected prosecutors from around the country in releasing a joint statement saying, “[We] commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”
The top lawyer in the Florida governor’s office, general counsel Ryan Newman, testified during the trial that any “reasonable person” would perceive the statements Warren signed as “a pledge,” which not only justified Warren’s suspension, but said it was lawful under Florida’s state law.
Warren strongly denied that the statements were pledge and that he signed them because he “agreed with the general idea” they presented.
Warren’s attorney David O’Neil praised Judge Hinkle’s remarks and said that he and his team are considering the next steps.
“On the merit and substance,” O’Neil said, “this ruling was a complete rebuke of Gov. DeSantis.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: THE WASHINGTON POST