TAMPA — After Andrew Warren lost a federal lawsuit to try to get reinstated as Hillsborough County’s state attorney last month, he said his legal battle against Gov. Ron DeSantis was “not over.”
On Tuesday morning, Warren’s lawyers filed notice that they would appeal the federal judge’s decision to not reinstate him.
DeSantis ousted Warren from his office in August, accusing him of refusing to enforce certain laws. Warren, who was elected twice, sued to get his job back.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled in January that the governor violated both the Florida Constitution and the First Amendment in suspending Warren. But the judge also concluded that he lacked the power to put Warren back in office.
The appeal will be filed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. A reversal in the federal appeals court could be a long shot. In other lawsuits, DeSantis has typically done best in appeals courts — where many judges were appointed by Republicans.
In removing Warren, DeSantis cited pledges the prosecutor signed on to about not pursuing cases involving abortion or transgender health care. He also pointed to Warren’s office policies discouraging prosecution of certain nonviolent misdemeanors and cases that stemmed from police stopping bicyclists, a tactic that has been linked to racial disparities.
Hinkle found the allegation that Warren had blanket policies against prosecuting certain cases “false.” He said Warren had a “well-established policy” of exercising prosecutorial discretion, and “any reasonable investigation” of his office would have confirmed this.
“So far as this record reflects, he was diligently and competently performing the job he was elected to perform, very much the way he told voters he would perform it,” the judge ruled.
But Hinkle also concluded that under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he did not have the power to restore Warren to office.
Warren, a Democrat, has called the actions of the Republican governor widely believed to be a presidential candidate politically motivated.
“We’ve proven that DeSantis broke the law, and I’ll keep fighting until I’m back doing the work that the people elected me to do,” Warren said in a news release Tuesday.
The judge wrote in his order that “if the facts matter, the governor can simply rescind the suspension.” DeSantis declined, saying through a spokesperson: “Mr. Warren remains suspended from the office he failed to serve.”
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The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Warren declined to say in a recent interview whether he was considering running for state attorney in 2024. Susan Lopez, appointed by DeSantis to replace Warren, has said she plans to run.