ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants a federal judge to throw out a free-speech lawsuit filed by a Democratic district attorney he suspended over statements about not pursuing criminal charges over abortion, trans rights and some low level cases.
The Republican governor told U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of Tallahassee in a deposition late Friday that Andrew Warren — who was removed last month as the elected district attorney in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa — cannot claim First Amendment protection for his comments on how he would handle these hotties. -button political issues.
“Mr. Warren did not have a First Amendment right, as a public servant, to declare that he would not perform his duties under Florida law,” state Solicitor General Henry C, Whitaker wrote in the 39-page filing for DeSantis.
Warren, who was first elected in 2016 and up for re-election in 2020, argued in his lawsuit filed Aug. 17 that the governor is subverting the will of the people who put him in office and that his suspension is based solely on his statements, not on actual prosecutorial decisions.
Warren said the proposal to fire the governor makes no sense. His lawsuit ultimately seeks his reinstatement as a lawyer.
“This is a poor defense of an unjustified abuse of power. The fact that taxpayers continue to foot the bill for this makes it even more shameful,” Warren said in an emailed statement.
Hinkle has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 19 in Tallahassee to hear arguments in Warren’s lawsuit. The GOP-dominated state Senate, which has the power to confirm or revoke the prosecutor’s suspension, has suspended its proceedings until the lawsuit is resolved.
The case comes as DeSantis seeks re-election in November against Democrat Charlie Crist, who has made abortion rights a cornerstone of his campaign. DeSantis is also widely considered a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
When Warren was removed from office on August 4, DeSantis accused the prosecutor of incompetence and dereliction of duty. The governor cited joint statements Warren signed with prosecutors across the country pledging not to prosecute people who seek, provide or support abortions or criminalize gender-affirming or transgender health care.
The governor also argued that Warren was improperly trying to “pick and choose” which laws to enforce, such as a policy against prosecuting certain low-level crimes, such as those found when police stop a pedestrian or bicyclist — known locally as misdemeanor charges. come from “cycling while Black”.
In the motion to dismiss, DeSantis argues that Warren has no standing to pursue a free-speech claim because he was not merely expressing opinions but taking official prosecutorial positions — which Warren denies — and that federal court is not the place to sort it out.
“In the end, this case does not justify a federal court’s interference with an essentially state matter: the governor’s constitutional duty to see that the laws are faithfully executed and the state’s constitutional process for removing wayward officials who refuse to faithfully execute them the laws”. says the governor’s proposal.
DeSantis appointed former Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez to replace Warren as state’s attorney. He was previously appointed to the bench by DeSantis in 2021.
Warren has received support for his lawsuit through “friend of the court” cases filed by several legal scholars and by members of the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission.