Dallas prosecutor Jody Warner was fired from her job in the Dallas District Attorney’s office for an ugly—and subtantially recorded—argument with an Uber driver.
“Although criminal charges have not been filed, her behavior is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated,” the DA’s office said in a written statement. “As public servants, we represent the people of Dallas County and are examples of justice, professionalism, and ethical behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom.”
Uber driver Shaun Platt said he picked up Warner, 32, at a Dallas bar. He knew pretty quickly that he had a drunk on his hands, as she yelled at friends out the window when she got in his car. Warner directed him to take a different route from the one his GPS suggested, and he got lost.
“I said, ‘Should I make a left up here?’ and she refused to answer me,” Platt said. “She said, ‘You can follow the fucking GPS’ and she became increasingly angry, even though I was just trying to get her home.” Warner continued berating him, and, he claims, slapped his shoulder. At that point, he pulled his car over, ended the Uber app, and ordered her out.
But the prosecutor refused, threatening that he was “never going to work again” and that she “knows people.” “Who are they going to believe? I’m a district attorney,” Platt says she told him. (Unstated but understood: “And you’re just a dumb Uber driver!’) At that point he called 911 and started recording her comments on his cell phone.
- “Oh, my God, you’re going to regret this so much.Just take me home, dude. … Either drop me off at my house, or we’ll wait for the cops because I’m not wrong.”
- “You’re a fucking idiot.We’ll wait for the cops then if that’s what you think is appropriate.”
- “Oh my God, you’re an idiot. You are a legitimate retard. I want to go home so badly but you’re so stupid I want the cops to come so that they can fuck you up, that’s what I want.”
- “Dude, everything’s being reported.I’m an assistant district attorney so shut the fuck up.”
- “I think this might be kidnapping right now, actually.”
After that statement, the non-lawyer Uber driver correctly made the salient legal point that since he had asked her to leave, and she was free to leave, “It’s not kidnapping, ma’am.”
She replied, “No, it is because there was an Uber that had a destination and you have not taken me to that destination. You’re holding me here, so please take me to that destination.”
Platt’s succinct and decisive retort to the kidnapping claim: “Ma’am, will you please leave my vehicle?”
“Under the law, it’s recklessly keeping me from where I was going, and you have done that,” she continued. “You’re kidnapping me. You’re committing a third- to first-degree felony, so do you want to take me home?”
Again Platt asked her to leave the car. This is an unusual request for a kidnapper.
When the police arrived, Platt thought he would be arrested. Warner said, “‘I’m the DA” (actually, she was an assistant DA) and then spoke privately with an officer. Apparently when her breath melted his badge and he realized she was drunk as a skunk, he put all the pieces together. “You good?”the officer asked Pratt. “I guess so,” he replied.
The cop and Warner left in the police car.
Platt decided to post about the incident on Facebook, and his tale went viral. Plattdid not want Warner to lose her job, he says, but added…
“My only hope is that she learns from this and she apologizes”Some of the things she said off the record were belittling me for being a driver. She says I’m stupid and all these things, and it was way worse..She can’t treat people like that just because I’m not a doctor or a lawyer or someone she hangs around. I was very polite and sweet. If it wasn’t me, it would be the next person that she Ubers with…One of the main reasons I forgive her is I know she was intoxicated, that’s another reason — that’s no excuse to treat someone like that just because you’re intoxicated…I’m sure she’s a good person when she’s sober.”
Now Sober and fired, Warner gave the statement and the apology you see in the video.
- If the incident had been exactly the same and Warner’s statements were exactly the same, but Platt was black, Warner would be labeled a racist. Moreover, Platt would have been certain she was a racist.
This is a major societal problem.
- Lawyers are told that when they become lawyers, they are lawyers, and represent the profession, every second of their lives. Warner breached her responsibility and duty not to bring embarrassment and distrust to the District Attorney’s office and the law.
That alone warranted, indeed demanded, her firing.
- If your inner asshole has a tendency to escape and run amuck when you get drunk, then you have an ethical obligation not to drink to excess in public, or when you are likely to come in contact with innocent bystanders.
“I’m sure she’s a good person when she’s sober,” isn’t a mitigation. She’s one person, not two, and accountable for when she isn’t a nice person, regardless of the reason. It still counts.
- Incivility to strangers is signature significance for unethical tendencies. We know she wasn’t racist, but Warner was still inclined to be disrespectful to someone she barely knew. He was a mere Uber driver, and thus not worthy of the social amenities she would extend to a peer. She was a lawyer, and she represented the state, giving her, she obviously thought, special privilege and power that entitled her to abuse Platt.
That’s not just the Margaritas talking.
- Ethical lawyers hate lawyers who use their law degrees to make false legal claims to non-lawyers, like “This is kidnapping.” It’s an abuse of authority, and it makes the public wonder how much of what lawyers say is really BS.
They should wonder.
- As for Warner’s teary apology, I rate it a #7 at best on the Apology Scale:
“A forced or compelled version of 1-4, in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent.”
She continues to dispute parts of the driver’s testimony; she attempt to inspire pity and sympathy; she uses her intoxication as an excuse, when being intoxicated in public is itself a breach of her duty. I don’t like the apology much. It is barely adequate.
Warner’s not going to hired by any firms or DA offices any time soon. It is unfortunate for one drunken rant to derail a career, but professionals must be held to high standards. I hope her fall will prevent other lawyers from falling into the many ethical traps she rushed into like a wino running into a streetlight.