Even before the trial started, the Walt Disney Company and the lawyers representing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board couldn’t agree on anything. Last week, lawyers representing Governor DeSantis asked for Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to be disqualified from the case because of comments he has made in the past about the Disney/DeSantis feud in open court.
To counter that request, lawyers representing the Walt Disney Company have asked that Walker remains on the case stating that DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board have “prescribed a hair-triggered disqualification standard” to Walker.
Disney’s lawyers argued:
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. Disqualification is allowed only if the prior comments expose an incapacity on the judge’s part to consider the new case on its own merits. The comments here come nowhere close to that standard.
Walker has commented about the ongoing feud between Governor DeSantis and Disney. The DeSantis team believes his remarks gave “an appearance of partiality that would lead a reasonable observer to question whether the court is predisposed to ruling that the state retaliated against Disney.”
Last week, DeSantis’ legal team also requested that the case against him and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board be thrown out, but Walker said there would be a ruling on him staying on as judge before he ruled on throwing the case out. In a strange twist of legal fate, it will be Walker who will rule on his impartiality.
Disney is suing the Governor after he and the Florida Legislature stripped Disney of its self-governing rights through the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney is accusing the Governor of retaliating against the company for its stance on Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law.
This week, Governor DeSantis announced he would run for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. In his speech, he once again chastised Disney for its lawsuit.
Disney’s lawsuit will continue while Florida Gov Ron DeSantis runs for President, and most likely well beyond that.