In opening arguments, Andrew Warren fights suspension and says he wants voters' rights 'protected'
Andrew Warren, a twice-elected Hillsborough County state attorney suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis in August, took the stand Tuesday in a federal lawsuit aimed at getting his job back.
The testimony came during the first day of a trial before U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle that could last until Friday.
READ MORE: Coverage of Andrew Warren's suspension
Warren, a Democrat, claims in the lawsuit that DeSantis violated his First Amendment rights by removing him from office.
Warren, who testified after opening arguments, told Hinkle he is challenging the suspension because he wants “to be able to do the job that I was elected to” and so that voters would “have their rights protected.”
DeSantis’ Aug. 4 executive order suspending Warren accused the prosecutor of “incompetence and willful defiance of his duties.” The order pointed to a letter Warren signed pledging to avoid enforcing a new law preventing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Also, the governor targeted a statement Warren joined condemning the criminalization of transgender people and gender-affirming care.
But Warren said Tuesday his office never established “blanket policies” about the prosecution of abortion-related crimes. Joint statements he signed onto with dozens of other prosecutors across the country “were not policies of the office,” he said.
Warren, who was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, also argued that prosecutors have discretion about how to spend resources.
“Case-specific review is a hallmark of our criminal-justice system,” he said.
During opening arguments, Jean-Jacques Cabou, who represents Warren, told Hinkle that DeSantis suspended the prosecutor “because of what he said and what he believes and because they’re different from what the governor believes.”
But George Levesque, an attorney who represents DeSantis, argued that the Republican governor suspended Warren “because he was refusing to enforce the law.”
Warren’s stance against the 15-week abortion restriction was “tantamount to a veto of state law,” Levesque argued.
“Mr. Warren believes that he can be a law unto himself, choosing which laws are just and which laws he chooses to enforce,” Levesque added.
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