Andrew Warren vows that the fight to regain his job isn’t over

Federal judge ruled that Gov. DeSantis had violated state and federal law in suspending prosecutor

By: - January 20, 2023 5:41 pm

Andrew Warren addressed reporters at a press conference in Tampa on Jan.20, 2023 (photo credit: Mitch Perry)

Former Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren blasted Gov. Ron DeSantis Friday afternoon, hours after a federal judge ruled that the governor had violated both federal and state law when he suspended Warren from his office last August but that the judge lacked authority to reinstate him.

“The truth is Gov. DeSantis abused his power in suspending me, not in the pursuit of justice but in the pursuit of politics,” Warren told reporters who gathered for the press conference at a Tampa law firm.

DeSantis stunned nearly everyone in the Florida political and legal world on Aug. 4 when he announced at a press conference in Tampa that he was suspending Warren for failing to enforce Florida laws based on his personal beliefs, calling his actions “neglect of duty” and a “blanket refusal to enforce criminal laws in Florida.”

In his order, he alleged that Warren had put himself above the law by signing statements that he would not enforce any prohibitions on sex change operations for minors and would not prosecute abortion cases.

But U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his 59-page opinion issued on Friday morning that “[t]he assertion that Mr. Warren neglected his duty or was incompetent is incorrect. This factual issue is not close.”

Although the governor’s action was politically motivated, Hinkle continued, the Eleventh Amendment, which limits federal court authority in cases against state governments, tied his hands on the matter of reinstating Warren.

Warren said Friday that his suspension was “always a political stunt, a cheap trick to add one more misleading lie to the governor’s stump speech,” adding: “The truth is, for the past six years I’ve been a pragmatic, forward-thinking state attorney, both tough on crime and smart on crime, representing my own vision of criminal justice in the purple county that I so proudly served.”

Warren, a Gainesville native and a Democrat, served as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. and then in Tampa. He quit his job in 2015 and then upset 16-year Republican incumbent Mark Ober in the race for state attorney by a single percentage point in 2016. He easily won reelection in 2020.

What now?

The question is: What does Warren and his legal team do now? Legal experts see three options.

One would be to ask Judge Hinkle to reconsider his decision. The clock is ticking on that choice, however, as Warren would have to make that call within 10 days.

He has 30 days to decide whether he should appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

And he could take his chances in state court, where there are no time considerations, in either Hillsborough or Leon County, or go directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

Warren also is entitled to a hearing before the GOP-controlled Florida Senate, where the 40-member chamber would vote to either reinstate or remove him from office. In a statement sent to all senators today, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said that the body will not take up the issue “until a final determination of the litigation has been rendered and all appellate remedies have been exhausted.”

In his decision, Hinkle wrote: “If the facts matter, the governor can simply rescind the suspension. If he does not do so, it will be doubly clear that the alleged nonprosecution policies were not the real motivation for the suspension.”

While that seems unlikely, Warren took the judge up on that statement.

“Let’s see if the governor actually believes in the rule of law,” he said. “Let’s see if the governor actually is a man of his word. Let’s see what kind of man the governor actually is. The governor is supposed to represent all Floridians. And if he wants to represent all Americans then this is a golden opportunity to show our country what kind of man he truly is.”

“This is not over,” he said in conclusion. He then left the room without taking questions.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.

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