Judge prefers a trial for DeSantis’ removal of Tampa prosecutor

TALLAHASSEE — A federal judge hearing the case of Hillsborough County’s ousted state attorney favors an expedited trial to immediately reinstate Andrew Warren to decide “once and for all.”

During the nearly two-hour hearing in Tallahassee, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle indicated that he wanted to avoid the potential back-and-forth effect of reinstating Warren, only to find it potentially overturned by an appeals court.

“The public is not served by yo-yoing this office,” Hinkle said. “It’s everyone’s intention to get it done as quickly as possible.”

Hinkle said he intends to stand trial within the next four months to settle the case “forever.” The decision, which will be formalized in writing, was welcomed by Warren and his lawyers.

“We’re waiting to be tested on merits,” Warren said after the hearing. “We look forward, as the judge said, to the governor having the opportunity to come here, which he did.”

The two-time state attorney was escorted from his downtown Tampa offices by an armed sheriff’s deputy on August 4. Governor Ron DeSantis accused her of refusing to enforce laws related to abortion and transgender health care, and of not prosecuting certain low-level, nonviolent crimes.

DeSantis cited two pledges Warren signed with other prosecutors around the country: one to criminalize gender-affirming health care for transgender people, and another to refrain from prosecuting those providing or seeking abortions. had agreed to.

The governor also took issue with Warren’s office policies to avoid charges for specific low-level offenses, including trespassing and disorderly conduct, and for arrests when a police officer stops a cyclist or pedestrian— Known locally as “black biking”.

Warren, a progressive Democrat, argued that his removal was a political stunt by the conservative governor, with whom he had previously clashed. He said that DeSantis violated his rights to freedom of speech and went beyond his right.

Warren sued DeSantis in federal court, arguing that his First Amendment rights had been violated. He sought a preliminary injunction from the judge to reinstate him to his job.

During Monday’s hearing, Hinkle wrestled with a central question: When Warren signed statements about not enforcing special offenses, was that protected free speech? Or was it conduct announcing a policy decision for his office?

Warren said he has never made decisions to charge in such abortion or transgender cases, and that his office guidelines were not blanket policies. Prosecutors working under him needed to apply their judgment and discretion to individual cases, his lawyer argued Monday.

But DeSantis and Florida Solicitor General Henry Whitaker, who represented the state, said Warren had crossed the border.

Warren is allowed to make statements on public issues, and he pointed to Warren’s tweets criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade this year. But refusing to prosecute certain crimes is not protected speech, he said.

Looking for real-time news alerts?

Looking for real-time news alerts?

Subscribe to our FREE breaking news newsletter

You’ll receive updates on major issues and events in Tampa Bay and beyond as they happen.

You are all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? let’s get started.

Explore all your options

“Andrew Warren has no First Amendment saying that he will not do his job,” Whitaker said.

When a state’s attorney speaks, they represent the state, and their refusal to prosecute some cases indicates a gross misunderstanding of their duties worthy of removal, Whitaker said.

“You really think the governor is the boss of the state attorney,” Hinkle told Whitaker.

Not at all, Whitaker replied. But state attorneys are still state employees, he said, and governors can ensure they assist each other on various matters or reassign them to other circuits.

“The governor completely supervises the state’s attorneys,” Whitaker said.

Hinkle indicated that there would be a trial to the bottom of whether there were other reasons for Warren’s removal.

He compared the situation to a wrongful termination lawsuit, in which the employer would state a clear reason for sacking someone. After a test, however, it often turns out that the stated reason was wrong, he said.

Hinkle said that for Monday’s hearing, he had some evidence about Warren’s removal: issued a written order to DeSantis, hosted the August 4 news conference DeSantis and a tweet A night earlier his spokesman warned “be prepared for the year’s liberal media meltdown.”

The news conference was a raucous event, with a large crowd cheering DeSantis police chiefs airing complaints about Warren in specific cases and comparing the governor to rogue prosecutors in California. Hinkle said he witnessed the incident, and it indicated that there were other reasons for Warren’s removal.

“It seems to me … that this is fraught with policy disagreements,” Hinkle said of the news conference.

On Monday, Hinkle and lawyers agreed that they were in undisclosed legal territory, with no prior instance of the governor suspending any other constitutional official to make a decision in a federal court based on free speech.

He referred to the case of Aramis Ayala, a former state attorney for Orange-Osiola, in which he had promised not to implement the death penalty. Then-government Rick Scott reassigned potential death penalty cases to the Second Circuit, but did not suspend him.

Hinkle repeatedly raised the case of Julian Bond, a black civil rights activist elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. In a news interview before taking office, Bond said he supported a public statement opposing the Vietnam War issued by his previous organization. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. During the interview, Bond stated that he was a pacifist who opposed all wars.

The Georgia House of Representatives argued that the statements were against his oath of office, and voted to bar him from sitting in the chamber, sparking a legal battle that went all the way to the US Supreme Court.

The court unanimously ruled in Bond’s favor, saying that while legislatures can take the oath of office, they cannot limit legislators’ speech on policy issues. He ordered Bond to sit down.

Source link