TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A federal judge criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Hillsborough County’s ousted State Attorney, Andrew Warren Friday.
Citing restrictions in the U.S. Constitution, the judge declined to reinstate Warren.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle agreed with Warren on nearly every claim. Judge Hinkle said he found him to be credible, direct, and that there was not a hint of misconduct in the record.
“The truth is that Governor DeSantis abused his power in suspending me,” Andrew Warren said.
Late Friday, in Tampa, Warren read a statement to reporters just hours after losing his bid to get his job back in federal court.
“The trial was a search for the truth, and over the past five months, the truth has come out,” Warren read. “The suspension was always a political stunt.”
The suspension happened on Aug. 4 at a news conference in Hillsborough County. There, DeSantis said Warren had blanket policies not to prosecute certain crimes including abortion, transgender health care, and low-level misdemeanors.
“Andrew Warren has put himself publicly above the law,” DeSantis at the event.
But in a 59-page order, dropped Friday, Judge Hinkle wrote, “The allegation was false.”
The judge said he found “in every case, by every prosecutor” discretion was used, and added that DeSantis broke federal law — namely the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The judge also found Warren was suspended, in part, for his stance on abortion, which is protected speech, but said Warren’s conduct didn’t rise to the level of incompetence or neglect, so DeSantis’ actions violated Florida’s constitution too.
“Let’s see if the governor actually believes in the rule of law,” Warren said. “If he wants to represent all Americans, then this is a golden opportunity for him to show our country what kind of man he truly is. This is not over.”
So, what’s next?
Stetson Law Professor Louis Virelli said Warren can sue DeSantis in state court because the judge dismissed those claims, without prejudice.
“I don’t view this in any way shape or form as a legal victory for the governor,” Professor Virelli said.
So, if the federal judge sided with Warren, why didn’t he give him his job back?
Judge Hinkle said he could only do that if this was a pure violation of federal law, but he found DeSantis broke state law too; thus tying his hands.
In a statement to News Channel 8, DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Fenske said, “Today the court upheld the governor’s decision to suspend Andrew Warren from office for neglect of duty and incompetence.”
If you have a tip for investigator Mahsa Saeidi, send her an email at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.