Disney opposes DeSantis’ attempt to disqualify judge in free speech lawsuit

Disney is opposing a request by Gov. Ron DeSantis to disqualify a judge overseeing the corporate’s First Amendment lawsuit in opposition to the Florida governor and others in which Disney says it was punished for talking out in opposition to Florida laws that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

Disney mentioned in courtroom papers filed Thursday that the request by attorneys for DeSantis, who declared his candidacy for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination earlier this week, did not come shut to assembly the requirements set out in Florida legislation for requiring a judge to be disqualified.

Last week, DeSantis’ attorneys filed a movement searching for to disqualify Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who’s presiding over the case in federal courtroom in Tallahassee. The movement mentioned Walker referenced the continuing dispute between the DeSantis administration and Disney throughout hearings in two unrelated lawsuits earlier than him coping with free speech points and worry of retaliation for violating new legal guidelines championed by the governor and Republican lawmakers.

Under Florida legislation, grounds for disqualification embody bias and a battle of curiosity. In its response, Disney mentioned the judge had proven no bias. 

“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 mentioned in its submitting.

Walker, who was nominated to the federal bench in 2012 by President Barack Obama and is now chief judge of the district, has mentioned in courtroom filings that he will not take any motion in the case till he guidelines on whether or not he must be disqualified.

The feud between DeSantis and Disney began final yr after the corporate, in the face of serious stress, publicly opposed laws regarding classes on sexual orientation and gender id in early grades that critics known as “Don’t Say Gay.” 

As punishment, DeSantis took over Disney World’s governing district by means of laws handed by lawmakers and appointed a brand new board of supervisors. Before the brand new board got here in, the corporate signed agreements with the previous board made up of Disney supporters that stripped the brand new supervisors of design and development authority.

In response, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature handed laws permitting the DeSantis-appointed board to repeal these agreements and made the theme park resort’s monorail system topic to state inspection, when it beforehand had been achieved in-house.

Disney filed the First Amendment lawsuit in opposition to the Florida governor and the DeSantis-appointed board final month in federal courtroom in Tallahassee, claiming violations of free speech and the contracts clause. The DeSantis-appointed board earlier this month sued Disney in state courtroom in Orlando searching for to void the offers the corporate made with the earlier board.

Last week, Disney announced that it was scrapping plans to construct a brand new campus in central Florida and relocate 2,000 workers from Southern California to work in digital expertise, finance and product improvement.

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