DeSantis Lawyers Ask Judge in Disney Case to Recuse Himself

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Business|DeSantis Lawyers Ask Judge successful Disney Case to Recuse Himself

They argued that Judge Mark E. Walker’s comments successful 2 unrelated proceedings displayed a bias toward the company.

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking astatine  a lectern successful  beforehand   of an American emblem  backdrop.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney person been sparring for much than a twelvemonth implicit a peculiar taxation territory that encompasses Disney World.Credit...Sophie Park for The New York Times

Brooks Barnes

May 19, 2023, 6:58 p.m. ET

Lawyers for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida asked a national justice connected Friday to measurement down from a lawsuit brought by Disney, saying his comments successful 2 unrelated tribunal proceedings past twelvemonth displayed a bias toward the company.

John Guard, the Florida main lawman lawyer general, made the petition to Mark E. Walker, the main justice for the Northern District of Florida, connected behalf of Mr. DeSantis. Judge Walker is presiding implicit the aboriginal stages of a Disney lawsuit, filed past month, that accused Mr. DeSantis and a committee that oversees authorities services astatine Walt Disney World of engaging successful “a targeted run of authorities retaliation.”

In their question to disqualify Judge Walker, Mr. Guard and lawyers for the 5 members of the committee said 2 remarks from past twelvemonth “could reasonably beryllium understood to bespeak that the tribunal has prejudged Disney’s retaliation mentation here, and truthful make important doubts astir the court’s impartiality.”

In some instances, Judge Walker brought up Disney successful hearings for unrelated cases, concisely citing actions by Mr. DeSantis and his allies successful the Florida Legislature against the institution arsenic examples of retaliatory conduct, according to the filing. Judge Walker made 1 of the remarks, astatine a proceeding successful a lawsuit involving intelligence state connected assemblage campuses, a time aft Mr. DeSantis “publicly refuted” the conception that helium was taking “retaliatory” enactment against Disney, the filing said.

The 2nd remark was made successful June astatine a preliminary injunction proceeding involving Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act,” which limits treatment of “white man’s privilege” and different radical bias issues during diverseness grooming offered by backstage employers. According to the filing, Judge Walker cited what was going connected betwixt Mr. DeSantis and Disney arsenic an illustration of a punitive action.

In August, Judge Walker made nationalist headlines for blocking parts of the act, which is officially called the Individual Freedom Act and was championed by Mr. DeSantis.

A spokesperson for Disney declined to comment. Judge Walker, who was appointed successful 2012 by President Barack Obama, did not respond to a connection seeking comment.

Mr. DeSantis and Disney person been sparring for much than a twelvemonth implicit a peculiar taxation territory that encompasses Disney World. The combat started erstwhile the institution criticized a Florida acquisition instrumentality that opponents labeled “Don’t Say Gay” due to the fact that it limits schoolroom acquisition astir sex individuality and intersexual predisposition — angering Mr. DeSantis, who repeatedly vowed payback.

Since then, Florida legislators, astatine the urging of Mr. DeSantis, person targeted Disney — the state’s largest payer — with a assortment of hostile measures. In February, they gave Mr. DeSantis power implicit authorities services astatine Disney World, ending the company’s long-held quality to self-govern its 25,000-acre resort arsenic if it were a county.

The committee members appointed by Mr. DeSantis soon discovered that a previous, Disney-controlled committee had approved improvement contracts that fastener successful a maturation program for the resort. An effort to void those agreements has resulted successful dueling lawsuits, with Disney suing Mr. DeSantis and his allies successful national tribunal and the governor’s taxation territory appointees returning occurrence successful authorities court.

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