Disney objects to DeSanti’s try and disqualify the decide within the lawsuit
Chairman of the Walt Disney Company Bob Iger.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Disney urged a federal court to deny a motion by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to disqualify the judge overseeing the company’s lawsuit alleging political retaliation against the governor and his allies.
Lawyers for DeSantis had argued that Judge Mark Walker should withdraw from the lawsuit over his comments in two separate cases involving the dispute between the governor and the entertainment giant.
Disney — which has been at odds with DeSantis since last year when the company opposed its bill, which critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” — responded that the defendants’ argument didn’t meet legal standards for a disqualification.
“Judges are not prohibited from accurately referencing widely publicized news events during hearings, nor may they disqualify themselves when cases related to those events lie ahead months later,” Disney’s attorneys argued in a court filing filed Thursday .
“A disqualification is only permissible if the previous comments show that the judge is unable to consider the new case on his own merits,” the attorneys wrote, adding that the judge’s comments in question “come far short of that standard.” not fair”.
Disney’s lawsuit alleges that DeSantis staged a campaign “at every step” to punish the company for opposing a bill in Florida that would restrict discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. This alleged plan is now jeopardizing the company’s business, Disney claims.
“The case we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said during the company’s conference call earlier this month. “And it’s really just about one thing, and that’s retaliation against us for taking a stand on the upcoming legislation.”
The attempt to remove Walker as a judge in Disney’s civil trial in the US District Court in Tallahassee, Fla., came days before DeSantis began his 2024 presidential campaign. The governor, who is considered former President Donald Trump’s main rival for the Republican nomination, has made a name for himself nationally for his involvement in numerous political struggles.
The long-running feud between the aspiring politician and one of his state’s top employers escalated in court after the governor’s handpicked officials voted to nullify Disney’s development contracts for its Orlando-area parks.
Disney filed its lawsuit in late April after its special district’s new board of directors voted to reverse development deals the company said it had made to protect its investments. The company has since updated that lawsuit to include newly passed legislation against its monorail system as further evidence of retaliatory action by the governor.
DeSantis’ next volley was to substitute Walker. Walker was appointed a judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida by then-President Barack Obama in 2012.
In 2018, Walker ruled against the state, directing then-Governor Rick Scott to restore felons’ voting rights upon their release from prison.
That same year, he ordered the Florida Correctional Authority to continue giving a transgender woman hormone treatment and providing her with lingerie and toiletries. The prisoner, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, was placed in a male-only prison.
DeSantis officials did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.