TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court rejected former Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren’s request to be reinstated after Gov. Ron DeSantis removed him from office last year.
Deciding that Warren waited too long to ask the court to intervene, a majority of justices wrote that they were declining to take up the case.
“We agree with the Governor that the petition should be denied on the ground of unreasonable delay,” justices wrote.
DeSantis, who appointed five of the seven justices, suspended Warren in August on claims of “neglect of duty” and “incompetence.” DeSantis cited Warren’s decision to sign pledges with prosecutors around the nation against pursuing abortion and transgender cases.
Warren first challenged DeSantis’ decision by suing him in federal court, arguing that DeSantis had violated his right to free speech. A federal judge agreed but ruled that he didn’t have the authority under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reinstate him.
Warren then asked the Florida Supreme Court to intervene, citing the judge’s ruling that his free speech was violated.
Justices wrote that his decision to wait more than six months to ask the Supreme Court was “unexplained” and “unreasonable.”
Justice Jorge Labarga, appointed by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in 2009, dissented, writing that Warren still has 18 months left on his second four-year term in office.
“Given that this case involves the suspension of a then-sitting elected official — for whom a substantial portion of the term yet remains — I am unpersuaded by the majority’s conclusion that Warren’s petition is properly denied on the ground of unreasonable delay,” Labarga wrote.
Warren, who spoke at a congressional hearing about his suspension on Thursday, released a statement saying he was “extremely disappointed” by the court’s decision.
“Rather than addressing the substance of the governor’s illegal action, the Court cited a technicality and avoided a ruling on the merits of the case,” Warren said.
Justices also blasted the federal judge’s decision, calling it “inexplicable” that the U.S. District judge, Robert Hinkle, would weigh in on state law. After a three-day trial that included testimony from several top DeSantis officials, Hinkle disputed DeSantis’ claim that Warren had a “blanket” policy of not enforcing certain crimes.
Justices wrote that Warren still has one option for reinstatement: going to the Florida Senate for a trial.
“There is no reason to doubt that the elected members comprising that legislative body will ‘be just’ in carrying out their ‘solemn duty,’” justices wrote.
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Republicans have a supermajority in the Senate, a body that has bent to DeSantis’ will since he took office in 2019.
That year, the Senate also took up DeSantis’ decision to suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel following the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
DeSantis laid out 10 claims against Israel, and the Senate hired an independent arbiter to hold a trial and review the governor’s claims. The special master, Dudley Goodlette, concluded the governor didn’t prove a single one.
Senators, voting largely along party lines, chose to remove Israel anyway, setting an expansive new precedent in the process.