Andrew Warren, the Democratic Hillsborough County State Attorney suspended by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for pledging not to prosecute abortion-related crimes, will get his day in court on Nov. 29, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. Northern District of Florida Judge Robert Hinkle did not issue an injunction against the suspension after a hearing last month, as Warren requested in his lawsuit against DeSantis, but he also had pointed questions for DeSantis’ lawyers and didn’t rule on the merits of the case. He’s now set the date for the underlying trial for late November.
Warren and his attorneys had asked for the trial to start as soon as October, but DeSantis’ lawyers preferred a December start.
“We had requested a trial a month sooner, but the Court’s schedule makes sure the governor’s office can respond to Hurricane Ian while also helping the Court and the public get to the truth,” Warren said in a released statement.
“Providing documents and depositions will only take a few hours over the next several weeks, but it will have a huge impact on protecting democracy throughout our state and holding Ron DeSantis accountable for overturning the will of the voters.”
Warren’s attorneys have listed as potential witnesses DeSantis Chief of Staff James Uthmeier, former Press Secretary Christina Pushaw (now on DeSantis’ re-election campaign staff), ‘Public Safety Czar’ Larry Keefe, Attorney General Ashley Moody, three local Sheriffs, and a GOP state House member who spoke at the event where DeSantis made the suspension announcement.
DeSantis suspended Warren on Aug. 4, citing his signing of a pledge not to prosecute abortion-related cases following the ruling in the Dobbs case by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, which overturned Roe v. Wade. The ruling left the issue of abortion up to the states.
He also pointed to Warren’s pledge not to prosecute doctors who provide treatments or care to transgender minors who want to transition to a different gender. Florida doesn’t currently have a law banning such treatment, but DeSantis argued the Legislature could ban it in the future.
DeSantis and his lawyers have argued those pledges constitute a “neglect of duty” and “incompetence,” two reasons a Governor can suspend a local elected official under the state constitution.
Warren has countered that he took no action to prosecute a specific case and DeSantis’ action overturns the will of the voters since he was elected by Hillsborough County voters in 2016 and 2020.
Susan Lopez, a former Hillsborough County judge appointed to that position by DeSantis in 2021, was chosen by DeSantis to replace Warren. Under the law, DeSantis can only suspend an official and the state Senate must later hold a trial and vote whether to uphold the suspension. The Senate’s trial process, however, is on hold as the federal lawsuit proceeds.