Andrew Warren files reply in federal court after DeSantis requests dismissal of lawsuit

Attorneys for ousted Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren filed a reply in federal court Friday, continuing his legal battle to regain power after Governor Ron DeSantis suspended him in early August. 

The reply addressed arguments made by the governor's lawyers and his request made last week to dismiss Warren's lawsuit against the state. Warren's reply filed Friday said Gov. DeSantis violated the suspended state attorney's first amendment rights to free speech. 

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Warren, who was first elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, also argued that the governor overstepped his authority in suspending him because he is an elected official. 

"In 10 days, we're going to be in front of the judge making our argument, and I'm really excited," Warren said Friday. "Even though we didn't pick this fight, I'm proud to be on the side of those who believe in the rule of law and those who cherish democracy."

Gov. DeSantis told U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in his filing to dismiss the lawsuit that Warren can't claim First Amendment protection for his comments on how he would handle hot-button political issues. 

When the governor suspended Warren, he accused him of taking a "pick-and-choose" approach to prosecutions. 

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"The role of the state attorney is to apply the law and enforce the law, not pick and choose which laws you like and which laws you don't like," he said. "This is a law and order state. We're not going to back down from that one inch. We're not going to allow locally-elected people to veto what our state has decreed through our legislative process."

Warren was among 90 prosecutors from across the country that signed on to a pledge after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the US Supreme Court. He promised not to prosecute women or providers who violate Florida's 15-week abortion ban. The governor also points towards Warren’s commitment not to criminalize minors who have sex change operations.

Warren said there were never any abortion cases that were brought before him. He will argue his suspension challenges the will of the voters, who elected him in 2016 and 2020.

Arguments before Judge Robert Hinkle are set for Monday, September 19 at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee. Each side will have 30 minutes to argue their case.