Gov. Ron DeSantis cannot be compelled to testify in the federal case that suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren is making to be reinstated, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Warren’s case that his August suspension from office is a violation of his First Amendment rights that should be undone starts Tuesday in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. In that effort, his lawyers have sought to compel the Governor to testify. His lawyers, however, filed a 29-page motion to bar the testimony, saying the Governor has already provided sufficient material —“thousands of pages” — about why Warren was suspended.
Warren was suspended because he signed a pledge not to prosecute women who seek abortions or the doctors who provide them, according to what DeSantis said at a news conference. The Governor also complained about Warren’s position against prosecuting potential prohibitions on gender-affirming medical care. Even though there wasn’t any specific case that Warren had chosen not to prosecute, DeSantis said that the prosecutor couldn’t pick and choose which laws he would prosecute.
At a telephonic pretrial hearing Wednesday, Hinkle said that it is DeSantis’ choice not to testify.
“If the Governor doesn’t testify, then the Governor won’t testify and I won’t have his testimony,” Hinkle said. “And that’s the choice the Governor has made.”
But Hinkle did not rule out compelling DeSantis’ testimony if the case can be made during the defense rebuttal. Warren would have to make a motion and the defense could make their case against it then, Hinkle said.
“If he makes a showing … I’ll do what I do every time a motion is filed – I’ll analyze it and make a ruling,” Hinkle said. “But at least as things stand now, the Governor is not going to be testifying … and I think it’s very unlikely the situation would change.”
On DeSantis’ behalf, lawyer George Levesque asked whether there would be built-in time to appeal a ruling should Hinkle agree to a motion from Warren to compel DeSantis to testify.
Hinkle wanted to make sure he’d heard the question right.
“The question is, am I going to stop the trial while you go to Atlanta?” Hinkle said, referencing the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Circuit of Appeals. In that court, DeSantis’ team had other federal rulings stayed or overturned.
“The answer is ‘No,’” Hinkle said. “We’re going to start the trial and we’re going to finish the trial.”
Hinkle in September rejected Warren’s request for a preliminary injunction against the suspension and moved the case to a full hearing.
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