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Judge won't decide whether to reinstate Andrew Warren until after trial

 Former Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren speaks outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Tallahassee, Florida following a hearing on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.
Valerie Crowder
Former Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren speaks outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Tallahassee, Florida following a hearing on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.

A federal judge is holding off on deciding whether to reinstate Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren until more evidence comes to light.

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Warren after he signed statements vowing not to prosecute violations of the state’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and any future laws restricting transgender people’s access to gender-affirming care.

At the end of August, Warren filed a lawsuit requesting the judge issue a preliminary injunction to block the suspension from remaining in effect.

Standing outside the courthouse following the ruling, Warren explained his lawsuit is about more than getting his job back: “This is about making sure that our elections have meaning, making sure that no one, not even the governor, can overturn an election, can silence the voice of the people or steal their vote.”

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Judge Bob Hinkle ordered both parties to agree on setting a trial date as quickly as possible. Hinkle hasn’t yet issued a formal ruling laying out his reasoning for ordering a trial, but that’s expected to come soon.

“We look forward to the trial where we can win this case and put me back in office to do the work that I was elected twice to do,” Warren said.

State Attorney General Ashley Moody's office filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case. That request was denied. DeSantis claims Warren’s signed statements indicate that he intended to act upon his promise not to enforce state law, which is grounds for removal.

Warren, who was elected to his post, maintains his signing of the statements counts as political speech, which is protected under the First Amendment.

Both parties have agreed to set a trial date before the end of the year, though they haven’t yet settled on a date.

Hinkle explained he couldn’t issue a ruling on the preliminary injunction with an “incomplete record.” Hinkle explained he needs all the facts of the case before issuing a decision, to ensure that it’s settled “once and for all.” Hinkle said there’s a “strong public interest” in “getting it right.”

For instance, both DeSantis and Warren haven’t appeared on the stand for cross-examination.

Hinkle noted the only evidence from the governor’s office regarding his motives for suspending Warren are his executive order and the press event that he held announcing the decision. Hinkle explained that’s not enough to determine whether the reason DeSantis gave for suspending Warren is the “real reason.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Copyright 2022 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.