Judge rules DeSantis’ ousting of prosecutor was unconstitutional but upholds stay
Hinkle rejected DeSantis’ argument.
“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has suspended Attorney-elect Andrew H. Warren, reportedly on the basis that Mr. Warren had a general policy of not prosecuting certain types of cases,” the statement read. settlement. “The accusation was false.”
Hinkle said Warren’s office has a policy of using “discretion in prosecution” in all cases, including those involving abortion.
“Any reasonable investigation would have confirmed this,” Hinkle wrote.
However, the judge acknowledged that he had no authority to reinstate Warren to his post.
DeSantis’ office hailed the decision as a victory, focusing primarily on Hinkle keeping Warren suspended.
“Today Judge Hinkle upheld @GovRonDeSantis’ decision to suspend Andrew Warren for dereliction of duty and incompetence,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis communications director.
DeSantis replaced Warren with Susan Lopez, who previously served as a Tampa area judge.
At a brief press conference Friday after the ruling, Warren declined to say what his next move would be, but told reporters that “it’s not over yet.”
He said the governor should now lift his suspension and allow him to resume his duties.
“Let’s see if the governor really believes in the rule of law. … Let’s see what kind of man the governor really is,’ Warren said.
DeSantis began eyeing Warren after the governor asked his public safety czar, Larry Keefe, in late 2021 to see if Florida had “reform prosecutors,” a term commonly associated with progressive prosecutors pursuing reform. of criminal law. When he ran for Hillsborough district attorney, Warren pledged to reduce recidivism, among other things.
“Mr. Keefe called acquaintances and quickly identified Mr. Warren as the Florida district attorney who had assumed the role of a reformed district attorney,” Hinkle’s opinion read.
In his decision, Hinkle also pointed to Fenske’s testimony about how the communications agency handled the announcement that DeSantis was suspending Warren. The day before DeSantis was to hold the August 4 high-level press conference to suspend Warren by executive order, former government press secretary Christina Pushaw tweeted “Rest tonight” and “[p]mend the collapse of the liberal media of the year.
At trial, Fenske testified that Pushaw was reprimanded for the tweets, but Hinkle says he “doesn’t acknowledge” the testimony because Pushaw tweeted again about the suspension the next day.
“Ms. Pushaw tweeted an equally partisan and unprofessional message about it the next evening, after she was allegedly reprimanded,” he wrote. “And in any case, any rebuke was about the tone, not the bottom.”
To justify the stay, DeSantis’ legal team also cited former GOP Governor Rick Scott’s 2017 decision to reassign death penalty cases to Aramis Ayala, the former county attorney. Orange and Osceola, after stating that she would never seek the death penalty, even in cases that “absolutely deserve the death penalty”.
In her ruling, Hinkle noted that no one has ever proposed removing Ayala from office and that Warren has never made any similar statements.
“On the contrary,” Hinkle wrote. “[Warren] said repeatedly that discretion would be exercised at every stage of the case.
The case can now go to the Florida Senate, which is responsible for firing officials suspended by the governor.
The case is currently pending in the Senate until the legal process is resolved, including a possible appeal.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) sent a memo to her members Friday morning after Hinkle’s decision saying the matter had not been resolved.
“As such, the issue of Mr. Warren’s reassignment or removal has been exhausted through Florida Senate appeal,” she wrote.
Gary Fineout contributed to this report.
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