A Florida prosecutor suspended by Ron DeSantis for violating a new 15-week abortion law says a federal judge’s decision to send his restorative appeal to trial means a reckoning for the Republican governor of the state.
Andrew Warren, a Democrat, was fired from Hillsborough’s state attorney general on Aug. 4 after saying he would not uphold the abortion ban or prosecute providers of gender transition treatment for young people.
DeSantis cited Warren’s alleged “awakened agenda” as reasons for his decision.
During a hearing in Tallahassee on Monday, Judge Robert Hinkle denied DeSantis’ requests to dismiss Warren’s lawsuit, and another Warren’s request seeking immediate return to office, instead requesting their disputes in the to be settled in court in the coming weeks.
“The governor now has to answer it to a court where facts matter and where you have to tell the truth,” Warren said in an interview with The Guardian.
‘It is a victory for the truth. A federal judge has ruled that the governor must come to court to explain the reasons behind my suspension, to show that it was not political, to demonstrate that it did not violate my freedom of speech, to to show that it was not contrary to the right of voters to have the prosecutor of their choice.”
The closely monitored case is expected to shed light on DeSantis’ power to purge elected officials who disagree with him. In recent weeks, the governor has also removed four members of a school board in Broward County who defied him over Covid-19 mask mandates.
“The governor has been entrusted by the people of Florida to use his constitutional powers and can suspend elected officials in Florida who refuse to enforce the law,” DeSantis’s office said in a statement after Monday’s hearing.
However, critics have accused the governor of selectively applying the principle. The Orlando Sentinel noted that DeSantis has not taken action against so-called “constitutional” sheriffs who say they will not enforce certain gun laws.
But he acted in 2019, suspending Broward county sheriff Scott Israel, a Democrat, for “dereliction of duty.”
Warren said he believed a trial, which could begin next month, would break any political stance.
“This has always been a struggle for democracy, the rule of law and for elections,” he said.
“This is our fight for the truth. And now the people are getting the truth because the governor is forced to explain himself.
“Eventually, he can be called to testify in court. The court was pretty clear that it wants to hear from the governor about the explanation of the suspension to make sure the reasons I was suspended are consistent with Florida law and federal law.
Warren said his recovery was not the sole purpose of his lawsuit.
“I would have loved to be back in office, but there is more at stake than just my job,” he said.
“No matter what party you belong to or who you vote for, yours always matters. No elected official has the right to throw anyone’s vote away. And the governor here has tried to throw out the votes of hundreds of thousands of Floridians and undo an election.
“If he gets away with it, what will be left of our democracy? What’s the point of holding elections?
Warren was a progressive when he unseated incumbent Republican Mark Ober as Hillsborough County State Attorney in 2016, and was reelected four years later with 53% of the vote.
He immediately began pursuing policies that upset conservatives, the Tampa Bay Times reported, including a pledge to introduce programs to rehabilitate convicts and prevent recidivism.
According to Tampa’s Fox13, Susan Lopez, who was appointed by DeSantis to replace Warren, has already reversed several of his policies, including the reintroduction of a controversial law enforcement “bicycle stop” measure that critics say is unfairly targeting minorities.