DeSantis Seeks to Disqualify Judge in Disney Lawsuit

May 22, 2023

Attorneys for Florida’s governor have asked that a federal judge be disqualified from overseeing a dispute between Ron DeSantis (R) and the Walt Disney Company.

In April Disney filed suit against DeSantis, a five-member board that the governor appointed to oversee its resort complex in Florida and other state officials over a “targeted campaign of government retaliation.”

That suit was filed moments after the five-member board voted to nullify two agreements that gave Disney vast control over expansion at the 25,000-acre resort complex.

The agreements had come out of a Florida state lawmakers meeting in February, where statehouse Republicans resolved to restructure the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body created in 1967 that effectively gave Disney control over the land in and around its central Florida theme parks.

Ultimately they passed a bill in February to end “Disney’s self-governing status” and give Florida’s governor the authority to appoint new board members to the district.

DeSantis had targeted Reedy Creek last year after Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek publicly criticized Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” bill, which restricts certain classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

This past Friday, DeSantis’ attorneys argued that U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who’s overseeing Disney’s lawsuit, be recused from the case. They claim that Walker demonstrated potential partiality while handling separate cases in which the judge mentioned Disney as an example of state retaliation.

“[T]he court’s impartiality in this matter might reasonably be questioned,” DeSantis’ legal team said in their motion.

Last week, CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney—the largest single employer in Florida—was  pulling the plug on a nearly $1 billion office complex that was set for construction in Orlando that would have brought an additional 2,000 six-figure jobs to the state.

DeSantis, meanwhile, is reportedly set to file paperwork and declare his bid to run for President in 2024 some time this week.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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