Andrew Warren Trial Ends, DeSantis Official Defend use of the Word ‘Woke’
The three-day trial regarding disgruntled former State Attorney Andrew Warren’s suit against Governor Ron DeSantis ended on Thursday.
Warren was suspended in August for signing statements that said he’d refuse to enforce abortion restrictions and a ban on transgender surgeries for minors. Warren disputed this motive as grounds for his First Amendment lawsuit, his lawyers arguing the termination was purely political and had no relation to Warren’s competence as a prosecutor.
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The DeSantis lawyer, George Levesque, on the other hand, has insisted that “The motivating focus … is all about enforcement of the law.”
Warren’s lawyers have attempted to turn DeSantis’s general political rhetoric against him in this case. David O’Neil, who represents Warren, argued that the firing “was a chance to kill three political birds with one stone.” He said the one act allowed DeSantis to score political points by opposing abortion, projecting a strong “law-and-order” stance, and attacking “woke” ideology. Warren’s lawyers are hinging their case on the notion that these benefits were the primary motive and not simply ancillary.
Interestingly, a significant issue in determining that is what DeSantis officials mean when they use the term “woke.” Jean-Jacques Cabou, another Warren attorney, noted that DeSantis referred to Warren in his announcement of the suspension as a “woke ideologue” who “masqueraded” as a prosecutor. DeSantis has also called Florida the state where “woke goes to die.” The angle here is that woke means nothing more than “politically left”; it’s a bad look for DeSantis.
In this vein, Cabou asked some DeSantis officials what “woke” meant to them but didn’t get the damning responses he was likely looking for.
According to Florida Politics, DeSantis’ Communications Director, Taryn Fenske, said that “woke” was a “slang term for activism … progressive activism” and a general belief in systemic injustices in the country. DeSantis General Counsel Ryan Newman elaborated on this idea, explaining why its use does not delegitimize Warren’s firing.
“To me it means someone who believes that there are systemic injustices in the criminal justice system and on that basis they can decline to fully enforce and uphold the law,”
Newman stressed that DeSantis does not believe in active systemic injustices and that Warren’s belief in them, his “wokeism,” led him to sign the pledge not to prosecute abortion crimes. This primary factor got him suspended. Newman argued that using “prosecutorial discretion” to ignore an entire class of crimes is a “fundamental misunderstanding” of how a prosecutor’s discretion can be used. Newman’s argument was simple: it was that signed, in-writing pledge that not only motivated but obligated DeSantis to suspend Warren because, as Governor, DeSantis must ensure the law is enforced.
In this light, with “woke” defined as a type of activism, as the ideology that required Warren to abandon his duty in this case, Cabou’s angle becomes more challenging to defend.
Presiding Judge Robert Hinkle has said it will be at least two weeks before a ruling, expressing his current internal division.
“I don’t know who’s going to win.”
Florida holds its breath awaiting his crucial decision.
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