Disney has urged a federal court to reject Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ request to disqualify the judge overseeing the company’s lawsuit. The lawsuit accuses the governor and his allies of political retaliation. Attorneys for DeSantis had argued that Judge Mark Walker should recuse himself from the lawsuit over his comments in two separate cases that referenced the clash between the governor and the entertainment giant. Disney’s lawyers argued that the defendants’ argument failed to meet the legal standard for disqualification. They added that judges are not prohibited from referring accurately to widely-reported news events during oral arguments. They need not disqualify themselves if cases related to those events happen to come before them months later. The judge’s comments in question come nowhere close to that standard.
Disney’s lawsuit alleges that DeSantis “orchestrated at every step” a campaign to punish the company for speaking out against a Florida bill limiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. The alleged scheme now threatens the company’s business, according to Disney. The effort to remove Walker as the judge in Disney’s civil case in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, Florida, came days before DeSantis launched his 2024 presidential campaign. The governor, who is seen as former President Donald Trump’s main competition for the GOP nomination, has gained a national profile for engaging in numerous political battles.
The long-running fight between the ambitious politician and one of his state’s top employers spilled into the courts after the governor’s handpicked officials voted to cancel Disney’s development deals for its Orlando-area parks. Disney filed its lawsuit in late April after the new board of its special district voted to undo development contracts that the company said it struck to secure its investments. The company has since updated that lawsuit to include newly passed legislation targeting its monorail system as further evidence of retaliation by the governor.
Walker was nominated to serve as a judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama. In 2018, Walker ruled against the state and ordered then-Governor Rick Scott to restore voting rights of felons after their release from prison. That same year, he ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to continue providing a transgender woman prisoner with hormone treatment and to provide her with women’s undergarments and grooming products. The prisoner, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, was housed in a male-only correctional facility.
Disney’s CEO Bob Iger said during the company’s earnings call earlier this month that the case they filed last month made their position and the facts very clear. The governor’s next volley was to move to have Walker replaced. However, Disney has urged the federal court to reject DeSantis’ request. The governor has gained a national profile for engaging in numerous political battles. The feud between the ambitious politician and one of his state’s top employers has spilled into the courts, which may damage the business of Disney.
Leave a Reply