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Andrew Warren letter calls on Governor DeSantis to reinstate him after federal court ruling

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Posted at 11:31 AM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-26 05:09:47-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren called on Governor Ron DeSantis to "reinstate me as Hillsborough County's duly elected state attorney for the remainder of my four-year term without further delay."

Warren's request was in a letter to Governor DeSantis sent just days after a federal judge ruled that his court did not have the power to reinstate Warren, despite finding that the removal violated the Florida Constitution.

ABC Action News sat down with Warren for the first time Wednesday.

“It was disappointing to know that there’s more fight in front of us, but from the beginning, this was always about more than my job," said Warren.

DeSantis suspended Warren last year over the elected 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 policies about not charging people with some minor crimes.

Warren — a twice-elected, Democratic state attorney in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa — sued the governor in federal court to get his job back.

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In his letter, Warren asked the governor to resolve the matter by restoring him to the office voters elected him to.
“When the Governor and I both took office, we put our hands on the bible and swore to uphold the laws of Florida," said Warren. "A federal judge has ruled that I did my part, but that the Governor broke his oath. This is the opportunity for the Governor to make that right and to show everybody that his oath of office to uphold the law was more than just an empty promise.”

When asked what his next steps in this process are, Warren said they're still evaluating the best path forward.

Judge Hinkle's decision largely sided with Warren's arguments but finds that the case is effectively a state matter that cannot be resolved by a federal judge.

From Judge Hinkle's ruling:

"The Governor violated the First Amendment by considering Mr. Warren’s speech on matters of public concern—the four FJP policies save one sentence—as motivating factors in the decision to suspend him.

The Governor violated the First Amendment by considering Mr. Warren’s association with the Democratic Party and alleged association with Mr. Soros as motivating factors in the decision. But the Governor would have made the same decision anyway, even without considering these things. The First Amendment violations were not essential to the outcome and so do not entitle Mr. Warren to relief in this action.

The suspension also violated the Florida Constitution, and that violation did affect the outcome. But 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."

Governor DeSantis accused Warren of incompetence and neglect of duty, arguing that the prosecutor was picking and choosing which laws to enforce, citing in his executive order the non-prosecution of crimes such as “trespassing at a business location, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, and prostitution.”

For his part, Warren used DeSantis' words to finish his letter.

"Though we may continue to disagree on matters of policy, let us show the nation, together, that you will honor your oath of office and that you believe what you said on the day you announced my suspension: that the State of Florida continues to be a government of laws, not a government of men," Warren wrote.

Read the full letter here:

Andrew Warren letter to Gov... by ABC Action News

Governor DeSantis' Press Secretary issued a statement Wednesday afternoon:

Andrew Warren, of all people, should understand the distinction between legal dicta and the holding of a court’s decision.

The failures that motivated the suspension were Mr. Warren’s actual performance—not advocacy—as a reform prosecutor.

Mr. Warren signed a statement refusing to prosecute the laws of the land. Thus, the governor removed Mr. Warren for neglect of duty and incompetence. Public prosecutors cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce.

In its lengthy opinion, the Court attempted to usurp the Florida Senate’s constitutional authority to make a determination on Mr. Warren’s neglect of duty and incompetence. It is the Florida Senate that is to rightly serve as the ultimate factfinder in this case.

We do not agree with the Court’s dicta, which are merely opinions, and need not address them since the Court ultimately determined it lacked jurisdiction and thus ruled in favor of the governor. Mr. Warren remains suspended from the office he failed to serve.

There were several Tampa Bay area law enforcement officials who spoke at the governor's press conference last August where he announced Warren's suspension.

After this ruling, ABC Action News requested an interview or statement from Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and former Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.

Former TPD Chief Dugan said, "For me, it’s much deeper issues than just Andrew Warren signing letters and not just what was brought up in court. It was the way he handled police shootings and protests.”

Sheriff Chronister sent a statement saying, "We respect the result of the Court in favor of the Governor's suspension decision."

Sheriff Judd declined an interview but said in a statement, “I was glad to see that Governor DeSantis won in court—the lawsuit was dismissed. I’m proud of the Governor. He did the right thing and we appreciate him standing up for the rule of law in Florida.”

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said that the Sheriff's statements at the press conference serve as his comment, and they have nothing to add.