Disney Responds To DeSantis’ Bid To Disqualify Judge
In the latest back and forth between The Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Disney has urged a federal court to reject a request by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to disqualify the judge overseeing the company’s lawsuit.
Attorneys for DeSantis had argued that Judge Mark Walker should recuse himself from the suit based on his comments in two separate cases where he had “offered ‘Disney’ as an example of state retaliation” without being prompted.
The DeSantis Argument
The DeSantis team argues that those remarks “could reasonably imply that the Court has prejudged the retaliation question” in the Disney case.
“Because that question is now before this Court. And because that question involves highly publicized matters of great interest to Florida’s citizens, the Court should disqualify itself to prevent even the appearance of impropriety,” DeSantis’ legal team wrote.
In a court filing on Thursday, Disney argued that the DeSantis team was misinterpreting the law and that there was no need for Walker to disqualify himself.
“Judges are not prohibited from referring accurately to widely-reported news events during oral arguments, nor must they disqualify themselves if cases related to those events happen to come before them months later,” Disney’s lawyers argued.
“Disqualification is allowed only if the prior comments expose an incapacity on the judge’s part to consider the new case on its own merits,” the lawyers wrote. They added that the judge’s comments in question “come nowhere close to that standard.”
The Next Step
As Disney and DeSantis gear up for their court case, Judge Walker’s fitness to oversee the trial will have to be determined first.
When the DeSantis team moved for a dismissal of the case, Walker noted that the motion would have to wait.
Disney hopes that whoever oversees the trial, will find that the DeSantis administration’s dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District was retaliatory. Disney says the governor only dissolved the special district because Disney spoke out against the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill. That bill limits classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Disney subsequently amended their suit to include new legislation passed by the state, which targeted the Walt Disney World monorail system.
Eventually, the case will be decided in court. Who presides over the litigation, however, could be a determining factor in the result.
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