Andrew Warren suspension trial could get messy for Gov. DeSantis, constitutional lawyers says

Suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren is still out of a job, but a federal district court judge wants a trial to decide whether he should get it back. 

The twice-elected state attorney was suspended by Governor Ron DeSantis for neglect of duty and incompetence back in August. The governor pointed to two pledges Warren signed, agreeing not to criminalize those seeking and providing abortions and gender-affirming cases. 

Warren said he was suspended for something he said, not something he did. No case involving these issues ever made it to his desk. He said the governor violated his first amendment rights. 

Professor Bruce Rogow, a respected first amendment and constitutional lawyer in Florida, recently defended Roger Stone in his federal case. He also argued 11 times before the US Supreme Court. 

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Rogow believes Governor DeSantis disenfranchised Hillsborough County voters. 

"For the governor to take it into his own hands and decide this person should no longer be in office after he’s been voted on elected twice is a pretty extraordinary thing," Rogow said.

Rogow believes Warren's lawyers will want to depose Governor DeSantis, and the governor may even welcome it. 

"It’s fair to have the governor explain in court with cross-examination why he removed him," Rogow said. "It may be that the governor is going to say ‘come on, come at me. I’m happy to tell you why I did this. Why I think I was right.'"

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When it comes to evidence, Warren will want the governor's emails, text messages and notes having to do with his suspension, which Rogow said could get messy for Governor DeSantis. 

"I think embarrassing and unconstitutional it could be," Rogow said. "Embarrassing if the discovery shows that it’s politically motivated that’s not the way governance should occur. That would be embarrassing."

He believes there could be a drawn-out legal fight over that evidence. Rogow also said the parade of sheriffs' who stood behind the governor when he announced Warren's suspension could get dragged into this. 

"For example if the sheriff was the one that said to the governor ‘you need to remove Warren from office I don’t like what he’s doing,’ well that certainly would be very relevant and discoverable. So, did he send emails? Were there telephone conversations? Telephone records?" Rogow said. 

READ: DeSantis criticized by dozens of former judges, prosecutors, police chiefs over Andrew Warren's suspension

Rogow said a trial will reveal a true motive and Warren could be up on the winning side. 

"I think that Judge Hinkle will find that it was politically motivated and that it's a first amendment violation here," said Rogow. 

However, he explained it would not end there. Judge Henry Hinkle's ruling will be appealed by the losing side. That appeal will be taken up by the Eleventh Circuit Court. Once they rule, again the losing side could appeal it to the State Supreme Court for a final ruling. Rogow said the legal "ping pong" could take up to two years to be decided. 

Next week, Warren's lawyers and the governor's legal team will have to submit a report to the judge on evidence in the case that may be disputed. Lawyers will also provide a timeline to help the judge nail down a trial date.