DeSantis’ attorneys try to get US judge in Disney suit disqualified

Judge accused of bias against the governor

Florida Gov. DeSantis signs 'Let Kids Be Kids' bill package

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida attorneys are trying to remove the federal judge who will be handling the lawsuit filed by the Walt Disney Company against Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Attorneys filed a motion to disqualify Chief Judge Mark E. Walker on Friday.

They claimed Walker is prejudiced against DeSantis’ case based on previous statements Walker had made in other cases against DeSantis with regard to Disney.

The motion to disqualify gives two specific examples from previous cases. In both, Walker pointed to the state’s plans to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District last year during hearings as an example of retaliatory tactics by the state.

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The attorneys said that the examples are proof that Walker already has a predisposition to rule in Disney’s favor.

Walker is a frequent judicial antagonist for DeSantis. In the last few years, he has ruled against several of DeSantis’ signature legislative pieces, often with disdain.

For instance, last year he referred to Florida as an “Upside Down” for the First Amendment — a reference to the TV show “Stranger Things” — in response to the Stop W.O.K.E. law.

Walker was appointed to the court by former President Barack Obama in 2012.

Disney accused DeSantis of making several retaliatory moves after the former CEO criticized the Parental Rights in Education law, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, last year. That includes remaking the special taxing district known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District into the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and putting its board under the governor’s control.

Disney is accusing DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board of several U.S. constitutional violations in the lawsuit, including violating the company’s First Amendment rights.

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About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.