Chairman of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger.
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Disney He urged a federal court to deny a request from the Florida governor. Ron DeSantis disqualifies the judge presiding over the company’s lawsuit, accusing the governor and his allies of political retaliation.
DeSantis’ attorneys argued that Judge Mark Walker should recuse himself from the lawsuit because of his comments in two separate cases that indicated a clash between the governor and the entertainment giant.
Disney — which has been in a dispute with DeSantis since last year, when the company vetoed his bill that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Jay” — responded that the defendants’ argument failed to meet legal criteria for disqualification.
“Judges are not precluded from accurately indicating widely reported news events during oral arguments, nor must they exclude themselves if cases involving those events come before them months later,” Disney attorneys argued in a lawsuit Thursday.
“Disqualification is only permitted if prior comments reveal a judge’s inability to consider the new case on its merits,” the lawyers wrote, adding that the judge’s comments in question “do not approach that standard.”
Disney’s lawsuit alleges that DeSantis “orchestrated at every step” a campaign to punish the company for speaking out against a Florida bill that limits classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. Disney claims this alleged scheme is now threatening the company’s business.
“The case we filed last month has made our position and the facts very clear,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said during the company’s earnings call earlier this month. “And that really this is about one thing and one thing only and that’s retaliation against us for taking a stand on pending legislation.”
The attempt to remove Walker as judge in Disney’s civil case in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, Florida, came days before DeSantis launches his 2024 presidential campaign. The governor, seen as former President Donald Trump’s main competition for the Republican nomination, has gained ground Patriotic for his participation in many political battles.
The long-running fight between the aspiring politician and one of his state’s top employers spilled over into the courts after the governor’s hand-picked officials voted to cancel Disney’s development deals for its Orlando-area parks.
Disney filed its lawsuit in late April after the new board of directors for its own district voted to back out of development contracts the company said it entered into to secure its investment. The company has since updated that lawsuit to include newly passed legislation targeting the monorail system as further evidence of the governor’s retaliation.
DeSantis’ next goal 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 and ordered then-governor Rick Scott to restore voting rights to felons after they are released from prison.
That same year, he ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to continue providing a transgender female prisoner with hormone therapy and to provide her with feminine underwear and personal care products. The prisoner, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, was placed in an all-male reformatory.
DeSantis’ representatives did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.