Here’s how progressive DAs are declaring war on GOP-backed state laws: 'The real limit on this is political'

Here’s how progressive DAs are declaring war on GOP-backed state laws: 'The real limit on this is political'
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Progressive district attorneys across the country are pushing back against aggressive, Republican-backed state laws that are seen as assaults on democracy. According to The Associated Press, progressive local officials have developed ways to work around controversial laws.

From charges for low-level marijuana offenses to restrictive laws targeting protesters, progressive district attorneys have decided on a simple way to get around the laws: they are simply refusing to enforce them. The AP describes their approach as "a strategy at work in response to some of the most controversial new changes in recent years — near-total abortion bans, voting restrictions, limits on certain protest activity, laws aimed at LGBTQ people, and restrictions on mask requirements."

In Nashville, Tenn., District Attorney General Glenn Funk (D) has made a habit of not enforcing Republican-backed state laws. Speaking to AP News, he explained his stance.

"It's also incumbent, I think, upon public officials who disagree to stand up and say so," Funk told The Associated Press. "Because if people who are elected officials just stay quiet in the face of unconstitutional laws being passed, in the face of a social debate that might actually be dehumanizing large sections of our population, then if nobody speaks up, then the impression is that there is a not another side to this argument and that there really is no argument."

One advantage progressive DAs have is the fact that their approach is popular among voters in the deep-blue states where they hold positions. The strategy has also served as a strong politically favorable tactic for their re-election campaigns.

"The real limit on this is political," said William & Mary Law School professor Jeffrey Bellin. "These prosecutors have to stand for election almost everywhere in the country. Ultimately, the limit on this is popularity."

AP also notes how the laws typically lean in favor of prosecutors as they "wield wide discretion over whom to charge with crimes, and they can hold off based on factors that include the strength of an individual case, the severity of the offense and, sometimes, the prosecutor's views on a law's constitutionality."

Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, explained what the progressive district attorney movement could signify going forward.

"We know that our country has seen a past where some have sought to criminalize interracial marriage or individuals of different race who choose to sit at a lunch counter together, or ride a bus together, or use certain bathrooms and certain drinking fountains," said Krinsky. "Change often starts at the ground and moves its way on up."

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