Disney rips DeSantis bid to disqualify judge in free speech lawsuit

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Bob Iger, chairman of The Walt Disney Company.

Drew Anger | Getty Images

disney Florida urged a federal court to deny a request by Gov. to Ron DeSantis disqualify the judge Overseeing the Company’s trial, accusing the Governor and his associates of political vendetta.

DeSantis’ attorneys had argued that Judge Mark Walker should recuse himself from the trial over his comments in two separate cases, referencing a clash between the governor and the entertainment giant.

Disney — which has been feuding with DeSantis since last year, when the company came out against his bill that critics have labeled “Don’t Say Gay” — responded that the defendants’ argument fails to meet the legal standard for disqualification. have failed.

“Judges are not prohibited from accurately citing widely reported news events during oral arguments, nor from disqualifying them themselves,” Disney’s lawyers argued in a court filing Thursday. Needed.”

“Disqualification is permitted only if the prior comments reveal an incompetence on the part of the judge to consider the new case,” the lawyers wrote, adding that the judge’s comments “come nowhere close to that standard.” Is.”

Disney’s lawsuit alleges that DeSantis “orchestrated every step of the way” to punish the company for speaking out against a Florida bill limiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. Disney alleges that the alleged scheme now threatens 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 it’s really that it’s about one thing and one thing only and it’s retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation.”

The attempt to oust Walker as judge in Disney’s civil case in US District Court in Tallahassee, Florida comes days before DeSantis launches his 2024 presidential campaign. The governor seen as former President Donald Trump’s main competition for the GOP nomination has gained a national profile for his involvement in many political battles,

The long-running battle between the ambitious politician and one of his state’s top employers spilled into the courts after the governor’s elected officials voted to nullify 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 struck to secure its investment. The company has since updated the lawsuit to include newly passed legislation targeting its monorail system. as further evidence of retaliation by the governor.

DeSantis’ next volley was to take Walker’s place. Walker was nominated in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama to serve as United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

In 2018, Walker ruled against the state ordering then-governor Rick Scott to restore the voting rights of felons after they were released from prison.

That same year, he ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to continue providing hormone treatment to a transgender female inmate and to provide her with women’s undergarments and grooming products. The inmate, suffering from gender dysphoria, was housed in a men-only reformatory.

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