On Wednesday, January 10, 2024, PBS News Hour reported that Andrew Warren, the Democratic prosecutor suspended by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in August 2022, will get another opportunity to argue that his suspension violated his First Amendment rights.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Warren’s case should be sent back to a federal trial judge in Tallahassee. The appeals court said DeSantis will have to demonstrate that Warren’s suspension was based on issues with his job performance as state attorney, not his political statements opposing abortion and transgender health care legislation.

“The First Amendment prevents DeSantis from identifying a reform prosecutor and then suspending him to garner political benefit,” Circuit Judge Jill Pryor wrote in the 59-page ruling. “The First Amendment protects his signing the transgender care and abortion statements.”

DeSantis had cited statements Warren signed with other prosecutors when he removed Warren from his elected position as Hillsborough County state attorney and replaced him with a Republican appointee. Warren hopes the latest ruling leads to his reinstatement.

“This is what we’ve been fighting for from the beginning — the protection of democracy. We look forward to returning to the District Court to obtain the relief that has been denied to me and all the voters of Hillsborough County for 17 months: reinstating the person elected by the voters,” Warren said.

DeSantis’ press secretary Jeremy Redfern disagreed with the appeals court ruling, saying it establishes a “dangerous precedent” that could allow politically motivated prosecutors to ignore laws they oppose.

“A state prosecutor’s declared commitment to not enforce the laws of this state is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. The federal appeals court is flat wrong to have concluded otherwise,” Redfern said in an email. “It’s disappointing that a federal appellate court would excuse such a blatant violation of that prosecutor’s oath to defend Florida law.”

The decision gives Warren another opportunity to argue that his suspension violated his constitutional rights to free speech and was an improper political retaliation by DeSantis. It remains to be seen how the trial judge will rule after taking another look at the case.



Source: PBS News Hour