Disney pushes back on DeSantis’s request that judge be disqualified in free speech case

Disney on Thursday asked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, to be disqualified as a federal judge in a First Amendment lawsuit against him because of several past statements he made in court. , pushed it back.

The company is suing DeSantis for a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” to speak out against Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” laws. claimed DeSantis said he had not reached the “high bar” required to disqualify a judge.

DeSantis’ attorneys pointed to remarks previously made by Chief Judge Mark Walker of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida about the feud between the governor and Disney in two unrelated lawsuits.

However, Disney argued that both cases were “hypothetical questions from many years ago” based on “widely publicized statements” and “had no findings about those statements.”

“The two comments cited by the defendant are that the court is closed and incapable of a fair and dispassionate investigation of the law and the facts, that an informed and rational person could take some risk, much less a serious one. It does not provide any discernible evidence, which is problematic in this case,” the Thursday filing said.

The firm also suggested that decisions in two lawsuits that Walker dismissed in favor of the DeSantis administration show that Walker remains impartial.

DeSantis, who announced Wednesday his long-awaited campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has been feuding with Disney for more than a year.

After the company voiced its opposition to Florida’s “don’t say you’re gay” law last year, Mr. DeSantis signed a bill stripping Disney of its autonomy and appointed a new board of directors to oversee the district.

Shortly before the DeSantis-appointed board took over, the former board of directors of the Reedy Creek Improvement District signed an agreement giving Disney full development authority over the park.

The company filed a lawsuit last month after the board of directors of the newly formed Central Florida Tourist District took action to declare the agreement null and void.

“The government’s targeted retaliation campaign, orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protection of speech, now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes the economic future of the region, and violates constitutional rights. ,” the original complaint alleges.

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