TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ legal team has filed a motion for a protective order, seeking to have a federal judge sign off on allowing the governor to skip testifying in pre-trial depositions before facing Andrew Warren in court.
The suspended state attorney is suing the governor for pulling him out of office on what he calls purely political grounds. DeSantis suspended the 13th Judicial Circuit’s elected state attorney for allegations of “prosecutorial malfeasance, misfeasance,’ and a refusal to do his job as a prosecutor. Warren says his suspension was a violation of his First Amendment rights and filed suit to get his job back. In the meantime, Susan Lopez, a DeSantis judicial appointee, was put in place to take Warren’s office while he’s suspended.
Previous filings in the case indicated that DeSantis would rely on a 2019 legal precedent from the Florida Supreme Court called the “apex doctrine” to avoid giving testimony during discovery, when both parties submit evidence and provide statements before a trial begins.
It’s a legal doctrine which allows high-level officials to avoid what the Florida Bar describes as “unduly burdensome” depositions in court.
“[DeSantis] will assert the apex doctrine and executive/deliberative process privileges in response to any attempt to compel [DeSantis’] testimony,” September court filings stated. “However, [DeSantis] would be willing to produce a designated representative consistent with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 30(b)(6).”
The Florida Bar says the doctrine’s concept is that officials may not be forced to be deposed unless they are the only people “uniquely able to provide relevant information that cannot be obtained from other sources.” The Florida Supreme Court adopted such legal precedent in 2019’s Suzuki Motor Corporation v. Winckler decision.
The motion for a protective order, filed Oct. 20 by DeSantis’ representation, follows this initial plan. The attorneys for DeSantis compared having the governor testify to having President Joe Biden be ordered to testify in a similar situation.
“More is required to justify deposing officials at the ‘apex’ of state government,” DeSantis’ team wrote, in part, in their motion. “Mr. Warren can no more depose the Governor and his Chief of Staff than a plaintiff suing President Biden for an allegedly discriminatory executive action could depose the President or his Chief of Staff, Ron Klain.”
Warren’s team is seeking to depose the governor and his chief of staff, James Uthmeier. DeSantis’ lawyers argue that Warren has not met the legal standard for establishing the case as “extraordinary” enough for a judge to compel the governor to testify.
In a statement from his legal team, Warren’s lawyers say that no one knows more about why DeSantis suspended him than DeSantis, pointing to his already discussing it in multiple press statements and at media events.
“The governor is the best source of information on why the governor suspended Mr. Warren. The governor has talked about it at length on TV,” attorney Jean-Jacques Cabou wrote. “We continue to think it is appropriate that the governor talk about it under oath.”
DeSantis’ court filing says that Warren has already “received substantial discovery about the Governor’s deliberative process, making higher-level depositions cumulative and needlessly disruptive.”
The discovery process for the case, the pre-trial disclosures and submission of evidence, is scheduled to end Nov. 14, with the trial expected to start on Nov. 29.