TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren won't get his job back, at least not through legal reinstatement from a federal judge. But Warren later said, "This is not over."
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled Friday on the lawsuit Warren filed last year against Gov. Ron DeSantis for violating his First Amendment rights after DeSantis suspended him over claims of "neglect of duty" and "incompetence," particularly when it came to issues about abortion.
Hinkle concluded Warren's First Amendment rights were violated when DeSantis suspended him in August.
However, the judge said DeSantis' violations of Warren's rights weren't "essential" to the outcome of the ruling, stating in court documents DeSantis would have suspended Warren even if the First Amendment violation didn't happen.
“The trial is a search for the truth and over the past five months, the truth has come out,” Warren said Friday news during a news conference after the trial. “The truth is that Gov. DeSantis abused his power in suspending me not in the pursuit of justice but in the pursuit of politics.”
The judge continued in his order that the suspension does violate the Florida Constitution, which would affect the ruling's outcome.
However, the court document says Warren won't be reinstated because the Eleventh Amendment "prohibits a federal court from awarding declaratory or injunctive relief of the kind at issue against a state official based only on a violation of state law."
“From the day I was suspended, I’ve said that the suspension was illegal,” Warren said. “And although a judge said he couldn’t put me back into the office, to which I was twice elected, [the] federal judge confirmed that the suspension was illegal.
“The judge wrote, ‘If the facts matter, the governor can simply rescind the suspension.’ Let’s see if the governor actually believes in the rule of law."
When Warren filed the lawsuit last year, he only sought to get his job back, rather than suing for damages. As a result, the clerk was ordered to close the filed lawsuit.
10 Tampa Bay has reached out to the governor's office for a statement on the ruling.
You can read the full court ruling below.
DeSantis suspended Warren in August over the prosecutor’s signing of statements that said he would not pursue criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender transition treatments, as well as his policies about not charging people with certain minor crimes. Warren sued to get his job back.
The issue arose after Florida passed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks.
Previously Warren's lawyers said the suspension was clearly motivated by politics considering DeSantis made his announcement at a campaign-like rally with cheering supporters during which he attacked “woke" ideology.
Warren was elected in 2016 and 2020 as prosecutor of Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa. He has said DeSantis overturned the will of voters by removing him from office.
More than 90 district attorneys, state attorneys general and other elected prosecutors throughout the U.S. have signed a letter saying they don’t intend to prosecute people for seeking, providing or supporting abortions. Dozens of prosecutors and law enforcement leaders also signed the letter opposing the criminalization of gender-confirmation treatments.
Warren's suspension came as DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, joined a wave of Republican opposition to progressive prosecutors who exercise discretion over whether to charge people with what they deem to be low-level crimes.