A Florida court says that although it has determined that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) violated former Hillsborough County District Attorney Andrew Warren’s First Amendment rights when removing the AG from his elected position, federal law prevents the judiciary from reinstating the state prosecutor.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle handed down the decision on Friday and concluded that “Warren’s First Amendment rights were violated when DeSantis suspended him in August.”
Read Judge Hinkle’s ruling below.
Unfortunately, the Constitution’s 11th Amendment requires more than a violation of state law for a federal court to award an injunction on Warren’s behalf.
The Eleventh Amendment prohibits a federal court from awarding declaratory or injunctive relief of the kind at issue against a state official based only on a violation of state law.
“Bottom line, it said that there were some violations of the federal constitution by the governor, but those violations did not rise to a level where the court felt like it warranted a ruling in the governor’s favor,” Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand told local affiliate Fox 13.
“Is this going to be a pattern where the governor disagrees with certain aspects of what a prosecutor does, where they come in and remove them? It’s a troubling pattern,” Brunvand said.
“The idea of the governor coming in and removing a prosecutor is frightening and could have a real chilling effect on having independent decisions,” he added.
The judge’s ruling stands out for several reasons.
It’s important to note that Judge Hinkle didn’t rule “against” Warren, per se.
The district court judge recognized that Gov. DeSantis’ actions were indeed a violation of DA Warren’s constitutionally protected rights – but the same constitution prevents the federal jurist from righting the wrong.
You buried the lede: While it was found Warren's First Amendment rights were violated by Ron DeSantis, federal law doesn't allow for a judge to reinstate him, court documents said. https://t.co/IJQFt7Nnv1
— Lesley Abravanel (@lesleyabravanel) January 20, 2023
Warren joined several Attorneys general in signing a letter denouncing Republican-led anti-abortion legislation aimed at criminalizing reproductive healthcare providers and recipients.
DeSantis seized the opportunity to further test his authoritarian and fascistic style of governing by removing the duly elected attorney general and installing a right-wing judge of his own choosing.
It’s been nearly six months since Warren was unceremoniously removed from a position the voters of Hillsborough County elected him twice to serve.
Since then, Gov. DeSantis has been wielding his executive power by refusing to seat duly elected school board members – and installing a right-wing board to the liberal New South Florida College.
Seen as a frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis has turned up the heat on a bigotry-fueled culture war fire. Bullying those who disagree with his dictatorial and anti-democratic political decisions.
With Judge Hinkle bound by federal law, the legal door is still open for Warren. The former Attorney General can seek recourse in state court, or take his chances with the conservative-leaning 11th District Circuit of Appeals.
Read the judge’s full opinion here.
Original reporting by Claire Farrow at 10 Tampa Bay.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick