Florida’s Attorneys Continue To Blow Money Defending An Obviously Unconstitutional Law


from the well-it’s-not-OUR-money dept

You just can’t tell Florida “no,” which is a bit ironic. The state obviously feels it can say “no” to all sorts of things, even if doing so means violating the Constitution.

Another dumbass bill written by dumbass legislators and signed into law by the state’s dumbass governor, Ron DeSantis, continue to bleed money from the state coffers despite being (1) fucking stupid and (2) unable to be enacted or enforced.

That’s the case with the “Stop WOKE Act,” which is another one of those performative bills where authors thought of the words first and worked their way back to an acronym. Before its rechristening as the just-as-stupid “Individual Freedom Act,” the act’s full name was “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act.”

This attempt to restrict speech was immediately hit with lawsuits and just as immediately hit with injunctions. In August 2022, a Florida federal court had this to say about the law:

In the popular television series Stranger Things, the “upside down” describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world. See Stranger Things (Netflix 2022). Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down. Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.

Believe it or not, that was the second injunction delivered against the law. The third injunction followed in November of that year, with this court saying even harsher things against the legislation, again using a popular cultural touchstone.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,” and the powers in charge of Florida’s public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of “freedom.” To confront certain viewpoints that offend the powers that be, the State of Florida passed the so-called “Stop W.O.K.E.” Act in 2022—redubbed (in line with the State’s doublespeak) the “Individual Freedom Act.” The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints.

Not satisfied with this string of losses, the state appealed both lawsuits. The first denial at the hands of the Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court arrived in March of this year. It was similarly dumbfounded by the obviously unconstitutional law and the state’s arguments in support of it.

[The state] says that even if speech defines the contours of the prohibition, so long as the resulting burden is on the conduct, that conduct is all the state is regulating. That, in turn, means the law does not regulate speech. Remarkable. Under Florida’s proposed standard, a government could ban riding on a parade float if it did not agree with the message on the banner. The government could ban pulling chairs into a circle for book clubs discussing disfavored books. And so on. The First Amendment is not so easily neutered.

The Eleventh Circuit handed down a second rejection two weeks later, while dispensing with yet another challenge of a lower court’s injunction. There’s absolutely no chance the Eleventh Circuit judges would be more accepting of the government’s identical arguments in a second lawsuit, but that didn’t stop the state from wasting money just to get hit with this judicial smackdown for pretending its appeal of a second district level loss was some sort of “emergency.”

The Clerk is DIRECTED to treat any motion for reconsideration of this order as a non-emergency matter.

The state currently has (at least) two losses on appeal in the Eleventh Circuit. How it expects any of those to turn out differently is something best left to the imagination of the state’s legal reps, who will certainly continue to cash checks their legal representation shouldn’t be allowed to write.

But persist they do, because the state says they must because the state is headed by a bunch of people who don’t care what it costs to own the libs, especially when it’s not actually coming out of their wallets. The futile march towards guaranteed losses continues, as Kayla Goggin reports for Courthouse News Service.

An attorney for the officials told a panel of the appeals court on Friday that the state’s interest in “the efficient and effective functioning of its educational institutions” and in “preserving public confidence in those institutions” outweighs the interest professors have in expressing their viewpoints and beliefs.

Attorney Charles Cooper of Cooper & Kirk urged the three-judge panel to toss out the injunction. Cooper said courts have repeatedly found that the state “can have a viewpoint and may insist that professors not espouse and endorse viewpoints that are contrary to the states.”

That is… some pretty bold stuff. I cannot wait to see the legal citations Charles Cooper offers in support of his assertion that courts have “repeatedly” found the state can control the speech of university professors. While it’s true certain government employees may have lower speech protections due to their government positions, that’s not nearly the same thing as the state proscribing what can or cannot be discussed in classrooms by educators.

And there’s nearly no court in the land willing to ratify the novel theory the government is allowed to restrict speech of employees to only ideas current government leaders agree with. If nothing else, the constantly shifting landscape of political opinions espoused by government leaders would make enforcement an impossibility. A regime change would basically make supporting ideas the current government likes illegal just because it doesn’t agree with the ideals of the party just voted out of power.

Given that the Eleventh Circuit has already rejected one appeal and put another on the back burner, it’s difficult to see this going the state’s way. But when you’re spending money that isn’t yours, even the longest shot is worth betting on.

Filed Under: 11th circuit, 1st amendment, florida, free speech, ron desantis, stop woke act

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