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Disney rips DeSantis bid to disqualify judge in free speech lawsuit – UnlistedNews

President of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger.

Drew Angerer | fake images

Disney urged a federal court to deny a request by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to disqualify the judge overseeing the company’s lawsuit accusing the governor and his allies of political retaliation.

DeSantis’ lawyers had argued that Judge Mark Walker should recuse himself from the lawsuit over his comments in two separate cases that touched on the confrontation between the governor and the entertainment giant.

Disney, which has been feuding with DeSantis since last year when the company spoke out against his bill that critics have labeled “Don’t Say Gay,” responded that the defendants’ argument fell short of the legal standard for disqualification.

“Judges are not prohibited from accurately referring to widely reported news events during oral arguments, nor should they be disqualified if cases involving those events come before them months later,” Disney’s lawyers argued in a court filing Thursday.

“Disqualification is only allowed if the above comments expose a failure on the part of the judge to consider the new case on its own merits,” the lawyers wrote, adding that the judge’s comments “do not come close to that standard.”

Disney’s lawsuit alleges that DeSantis “orchestrated at every turn” a campaign to punish the company for speaking out against a Florida bill limiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity. That alleged scheme now threatens the company’s business, Disney alleges.

“The case we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said during the company’s earnings call earlier this month. “And that is really about one thing and one thing only and that is retaliating against us for taking a position on pending legislation.”

The effort to remove Walker as a judge in the Disney civil case in US District Court in Tallahassee, Florida, came days before DeSantis launched his 2024 presidential campaign. The governor, who is seen as The main competitor to former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, he has earned a national profile by engaging in numerous political battles.

The long-running fight between the ambitious politician and one of his state’s top employers went to court after the governor’s picks voted to cancel Disney’s development deals for its Orlando-area parks.

Disney filed its lawsuit in late April after its special district’s new board voted to undo development contracts the company said it signed to secure its investments. The company has since updated that lawsuit to include recently passed legislation targeting its monorail system as further evidence of retaliation by the governor.

DeSantis’ next volley was to move to replace Walker. Walker was nominated to serve as a judge of 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, ordering then-Governor Rick Scott to restore felons’ voting rights after their release from prison.

That same year, he ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to continue providing hormone treatment to a transgender prisoner and to provide her with women’s underwear and personal care products. The inmate, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, was housed in a male-only correctional facility.

Representatives for DeSantis did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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