Who is Mark Walker? Florida judge blocks Ron DeSantis' 'anti-woke' law for colleges

The 138-page order from Chief US District Judge Mark Walker is being heralded as a major win for campus free speech by the groups who challenged the state

Who is Mark Walker? Florida judge blocks Ron DeSantis' 'anti-woke' law for colleges
Judge Mark Walker (L) has blocked Florida Governer Ron DeSantis'(R) 'Stop WOKE' Act (Joe Raedle/Getty Images and Screenshot Wiki4All)
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MIAMI, FLORIDA: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's law against critical race theory, which sought to ban "Woke" instruction at colleges and universities, was overturned by Judge Mark Walker. The Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act often referred to as the 'Stop WOKE' Act, is a bill that would restrict racial and gender studies in higher education. Senior US District Judge Walker called the bill "positively dystopian."

Walker's 138-page ruling included citations to George Orwell's 1984, a book on totalitarianism, the dangers of the "Thought Police" and political abuses, as noted by Britannica. The court's decision only affects colleges and universities in the 'Sunshine State,' where the law is being implemented. According to Walker, who was chosen by former President Barack Obama, the legislation "officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints." The legislation would have made it illegal for "school districts, colleges and universities from hiring woke CRT consultants" and cemented the Florida Department of Education's ban on critical racial theory. Officials summarized the idea in a handout and said that it "will be the strongest legislation of its kind."

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a victory speech after defeating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist during his election night watch party at the Tampa Convention Center on November 8, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. DeSantis was the projected winner by a double-digit lead.
A federal judge in Florida on Thursday blocked a law pushed by Gov Ron DeSantis that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in colleges (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

The measure was challenged in court in September by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) which claimed that it had an unlawful effect on free speech on college campuses. “I hope that the courts will defend the existence of a public education that cannot be manipulated by politicians to push any ideology, now and in the future,” FIRE plaintiff Adriana Novoa, a University of South Florida history professor of 17 years, said to Daily Mail. Walker concurred, stating that both the 14th Amendment's due process rights and the First Amendment's prohibitions against censorship were breached by the 'Stop WOKE' Act. “Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy 'academic freedom' so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves,” the chief judge wrote.

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Who is Judge Mark Walker?

Mark Eaton Walker is the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and joined the court in 2012. In 2018, Walker was appointed chief judge. A resident of Winter Garden, Florida, Walker earned his bachelor's degree from the College of Florida in 1989 and his law degree from the College of Florida College of Law in 1992. From 1993 to 1994, he clerked for Judge Emmett Ripley Cox on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after receiving the second highest grade of his class in law school. In July 1997, he began working in private practice for a short time before becoming an assistant public defender for Florida's Second Judicial Circuit. From 1999 to 2009, he was in private practice and focused on civil litigation and criminal defense. From 2009 to 2012, Walker worked in Tallahassee as a state Circuit Judge.

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