Chief Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida is an Obama appointee and former public defender. At 55 years old, he’s still young enough that he may harbor hopes of a promotion to a higher court. At a minimum, he certainly seems to be angling for headlines. Judge Walker has previously been described in the Florida press as “a quotable jurist,” “the judge who keeps clashing with Rick Scott,” a judge who has “made headlines with pointed opinions, ordering the state to give voters a chance to cure spoiled mail ballots, ordered polling places on college campuses, extended voter registration following a hurricane and declared the clemency process unconstitutional.” And those are just from 2018. He has repeatedly ruled against election laws and procedures adopted by Florida, with mixed success. In 2018, he tried to throw out Florida’s system for felon disenfranchisement and reinfranchisement. He was reversed by the Eleventh Circuit. It is no accident that he keeps getting these cases — his own opinion today counts 17 of them — given that Democrats know where to file suit to obtain the most favorable forum for their claims.
Today’s opinion striking down significant portions of Florida’s new election law has a lot to chew over; more on that another time. Just as a start, the signs of Judge Walker crafting overheated rhetoric for political attention jump off the first few pages. A legally irrelevant footnote on the first page declares, “The current war in Ukraine, in which the Ukrainian people are fighting and dying to maintain the freedoms we take for granted — namely, the right to have a voice and not to be ruled by a despot — provides a poignant reminder of both the value and fragility of democracy.” Walker intones, like any elected Democratic politician, that “the right to vote, and the VRA particularly, are under siege.” He writes, with no sense of irony, that “federal courts would not countenance a law denying Christians their sacred right to prayer, and they should not countenance a law denying Floridians their sacred right to vote.”
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