Florida’s DeSantis must face ousted prosecutor’s retaliation lawsuit

Florida’s DeSantis must face ousted prosecutor’s retaliation lawsuit

Florida’s DeSantis must face ousted prosecutor’s retaliation lawsuit By Reuters

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Published Jan 10, 2024 01:39PM ET
Updated Jan 10, 2024 04:11PM ET

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis participates in a FOX News Channel’s Democracy 2024: FOX News Town Hall ahead of the caucus vote in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., January 9, 2024. REUTERS/Scott Morgan/File Photo

By Mike Scarcella

(Reuters) -A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis must face a retaliation lawsuit by a state prosecutor who claimed he was unlawfully fired over statements he signed in support of transgender care and abortion rights.

The ruling by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revives the lawsuit by former Tampa prosecutor Andrew Warren against DeSantis, who is among the Republicans competing with Donald Trump for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

A federal judge had dismissed the case last January, ruling that the courts had no power to reinstate Warren, a Democrat who won reelection in 2020, even though DeSantis’ action violated state and federal law.

The appeals court overturned the decision, finding that Warren’s statements did not affect his office’s work and amounted to protected speech under the U.S. Constitution.

“The First Amendment prevents DeSantis from identifying a reform prosecutor and then suspending him to garner political benefit,” it said.

DeSantis’ spokesperson called the ruling “flat wrong” and said it was “an egregious encroachment on state sovereignty.”

Warren in a statement praised the appeals court order and said it gave the trial judge the power to reinstate him. Warren had announced on Jan. 8 he would not run again, saying DeSantis “could suspend me again for whatever bogus reason he wanted.”

DeSantis had maintained he suspended Warren for “neglect of duty” after Warren and other prosecutors signed a statement supporting abortion rights.

Prosecutors across the country signed the pledge on June 24, the day the U.S. Supreme Court struck down its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing a constitutional right to abortion.

DeSantis in August suspended a second elected Democratic state prosecutor, Monique Worrell, the lead prosecutor in Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties, accusing her of being soft on crime.

Worrell has called her dismissal an “attack on democracy” and is pursuing her own lawsuit against DeSantis in the Florida Supreme Court.

Opinion polls show DeSantis trailing Trump in the Republican presidential nominating contest.

Florida’s DeSantis must face ousted prosecutor’s retaliation lawsuit

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