Prosecutor removed by Florida governor can't get hearing in federal or state court

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AP Andrew Warren

Hillsborough County, Florida, State Attorney Andrew Warren attends a press conference shortly after Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended him because of neglect of duty Aug. 4, 2022, in Tampa, Florida. Warren has not been able to get a hearing in federal or state court to be reinstated. Photo by Douglas R. Clifford/The Tampa Bay Times via the Associated Press.

An elected county prosecutor removed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for “woke” positions and “neglect of duty” hasn’t been able to get a hearing in federal or state court.

Hillsborough County, Florida, State Attorney Andrew Warren first lost his bid for reinstatement in federal district court. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida ruled in January that the 11th Amendment bars him from ordering reinstatement based on a violation of only Florida law.

Warren turned to the Florida Supreme Court after Hinkle ruled against him.

Warren struck out in state court June 22, when the Florida Supreme Court ruled Warren waited too long to file a petition seeking reinstatement there. Warren waited more than six months to file after DeSantis’ suspension decision in August 2022.

DeSantis had said he was suspending Warren for pledging not to prosecute people in connection with abortion and refusing to prosecute some misdemeanor crimes. DeSantis also cited Warren’s criticism of bills that criminalize medical treatments for transgender people.

“We agree with the governor,” the Florida Supreme Court said, “that the petition should be denied on the ground of unreasonable delay.” Later in the opinion, the state supreme court called Warren’s late filing “unreasonable” and “unexplained.”

“Whether petitioner ‘invok[ed] this court as a backup plan,’ as the governor argues, or whether petitioner had other reasons for the delay, we do not know,” the Florida Supreme Court said. Warren “is not saying.”

The Florida Supreme Court also criticized Hinkle for “inexplicably” reaching conclusions about the propriety of DeSantis’ order, despite dismissing Warren’s lawsuit.

Hinkle said DeSantis violated the Florida Constitution because he suspended Warren with the aim of benefiting politically and bringing down a reform-minded prosecutor.

The Florida Supreme Court said Warren could still seek review by the Florida Senate, which has a Republican majority. The Volokh Conspiracy also pointed out that Hinkle’s ruling is on appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta.

The Florida and federal suits are captioned Warren v. DeSantis.

Other publications with coverage of the Florida Supreme Court ruling include the Associated Press, Law360 and the Legal Profession Blog.

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