Suspended prosecutor Andrew Warren took his fight against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to a federal court on Tuesday on the first day of a trial that’s exposing the machinations in how the governor’s office operates, according to Politico. DeSantis suspended the Hillsborough County state attorney in August over a handful of moves the Democratic elected official made, including signing a pledge in June that he would not enforce the state’s abortion laws. Warren contends that DeSantis’ move to suspend him in early August violated his First Amendment rights. In the trial’s opening day he testified for more than three hours, including recounting the day he was suspended. On that day, Warren said he was met at his office by Larry Keefe, the governor’s public safety czar, who was accompanied by sheriff’s deputies and a demand that he leave immediately. Keefe, who took the stand later in the day, testified that he was the “primary driver” in getting Warren’s suspended. His inquiry started after DeSantis asked in a December 2021 meeting whether there were any Florida prosecutors not enforcing the law.
Keefe contended during his testimony that Warren was “crossing the line” for signing the statements on abortion — and another one saying he would not prosecute anyone for providing gender-affirming care to transgender patients even though the state does not have any criminal laws dealing with that. However, Florida approved a rule banning gender-affirming treatment for minors several months after Warren was suspended. Keefe, a former U.S. Attorney who also directed the DeSantis administration’s contentious relocation of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, said these statements regarding Warren were part of a “very problematic” trend from the ousted prosecutor, testifying, “I absolutely believed he needed to be suspended.” Florida’s Constitution gives the governor the power to suspend elected officials for various reasons, including neglect of duty and malfeasance or commission of a felony, but DeSantis has embraced a wider use of the suspension powers. Under the Constitution, a suspended official can ask to be reinstated by the Florida Senate. Warren opted to fight the governor in federal court. Regarding the abortion statement, Warren said he was more concerned about all-out bans on abortion and said he backed the one on gender-affirming care, saying he was opposed to discrimination against trans youth. The trial is expected to last at least two more days. Warren wants U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to restore his job and issue a permanent injunction against DeSantis’ executive order that suspended him.