Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants a federal judge to dismiss a free speech lawsuit filed by a Democratic attorney who has suspended from office for pleading not to prosecute criminal charges in abortion, transgender rights, and some low-level cases.
The Republican governor told US District Judge Robert Hinkle of Tallahassee on Friday in a filing that Andrew Warren – removed last month as an elected state attorney in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa – cannot claim First Amendment protection for his comments on how he would handle these hot-button political issues.
“Mr. Warren did not have the First Amendment right, as a public official, to declare that he would not perform his duties under Florida law,” wrote State Attorney General Henry C, Whitaker in the 39-page filing. for DeSantis.
Warren, first elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, in his lawsuit filed on Aug.17 said the governor is overturning the will of the people who put him in office and that his suspension is based solely on his statements and not on any actual judicial decisions.
Warren said the governor’s dismissal motion misses the mark. His lawsuit eventually seeks his reinstatement as a state attorney.
“This is a poor defense of an indefensible abuse of power. The fact that taxpayers keep footing the bill for this makes it even more shameful, ”Warren said in an emailed statement.
Hinkle has scheduled a hearing for September 19 in Tallahassee to hear the arguments in the Warren case. The GOP-dominated state Senate, which has the authority to affirm or lift the prosecutor’s suspension, is holding its proceedings until the court appeal is resolved.
The case comes when DeSantis calls for re-election in November against Democrat Charlie Crist, who has made the right to abortion a cornerstone of his campaign. DeSantis is also widely considered a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
When Warren was removed from office on August 4, DeSantis accused the prosecutor of incompetence and negligence of duty. The governor cited joint statements that Warren signed with prosecutors across the country where he pledges not to prosecute people who seek, provide or support abortion or to criminalize health care that affirms gender or people. transgender.
The governor also said that Warren was improperly trying to “pick and choose” which laws to apply, such as a policy against some low-level crimes such as those found when police stop a pedestrian or cyclist – known locally as allegations arising from “ride a bike while Black.
In the dismissal motion, DeSantis argues that Warren has no justification for filing a request for free speech because he was not merely expressing opinions but taking official positions of the prosecution – which Warren rejects – and that the federal court is not the place to solve it.
“Ultimately, this case does not justify the federal court’s intervention in a typically state matter: the governor’s constitutional duty to ensure laws are strictly enforced and the state’s constitutional process to remove rebel officials who refuse to faithfully execute. those laws, “says the governor’s motion.
DeSantis has appointed former Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez to replace Warren as state attorney. She had previously been named to the bench by DeSantis in 2021.
Warren received support for his cause through “friend of the court” memoirs submitted by a number of legal scholars and members of the State Constitution Review Commission.