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DeSantis asks judge to let him avoid deposition on why he ousted prosecutor

The governor’s lawyers say suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren can no more depose DeSantis than someone could depose President Joe Biden.
 
Gov. Ron DeSantis announces the removal of Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren during an August news conference.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announces the removal of Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren during an August news conference. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Oct. 21, 2022|Updated Oct. 21, 2022

It’s official: Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking a federal judge to exempt him from giving a deposition about his motivation for suspending Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren.

The Florida governor’s lawyers already had indicated in court filings they would try to shield DeSantis from having to give a deposition in the lawsuit Warren filed to try to get his job back. In a motion this week, DeSantis’ lawyers said neither the governor nor his chief of staff, James Uthmeier, should have to submit to questioning under oath.

“Mr. Warren can no more depose the governor and his chief of staff than a plaintiff suing President Biden for an allegedly discriminatory executive action could depose the president or his chief of staff, Ron Klain,” the motion contends.

Hillsborough County’s twice-elected state attorney was abruptly removed from office in August. DeSantis pointed to pledges Warren signed with other prosecutors saying he would not pursue cases related to abortion or transgender healthcare, and to office policies against prosecuting certain low-level misdemeanors. Warren called his ouster a violation of free speech and said DeSantis’ motivations were political and is suing him in federal court.

Suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren walks to a news conference after he sued the governor in an effort to get his job back.
Suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren walks to a news conference after he sued the governor in an effort to get his job back. [ Times (2022) ]

The governor’s motion says “far more must be shown” before high-ranking government officials are subjected to “burdensome depositions that distract from their important duties.” Warren hasn’t established that this is an “extraordinary” case in which no one but DeSantis can provide the evidence, the motion says.

“The governor did not decide to suspend Mr. Warren in a silo,” the motion says, and Warren’s lawyers could depose a designated representative “who can be educated on the governor’s decision-making process.”

“The governor is the best source of information on why the governor suspended Mr. Warren,” said Warren’s attorney Jean-Jacques Cabou. “The governor has talked about it at length on TV. We continue to think it is appropriate that the governor talk about it under oath.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who will rule on DeSantis’ motion, recently told the lawyers to think carefully about the implications of the governor not testifying.

“Motivation is a critical issue here,” Hinkle said this week. “And if you really want to not be able to provide the testimony from the people that know the most about why this was really done, think about how that affects your case.”

The trial is scheduled for Nov. 29.