Judge recuses from Disney lawsuit against DeSantis, accusing governor of ‘rank-judge-shopping

A federal judge overseeing Walt Disney Co.'s lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis recused himself, saying he has a relative who owns Disney stock.

A federal judge overseeing Walt Disney Co.’s lawsuit against GOP Governor. Ron DeSantis resigned from the case on Thursday because he had a relative that owned Disney stock, and could have been affected by its outcome.

In a response to the motion of DeSantis’ legal team, Mark E. Walker was nominated as a judge by President Barack Obama. The request came from his legal team that he be removed from the case.

Walker wrote: “Defendants want to disqualify from preside over this case, because they believe that questions I asked in other, similar cases have raised substantial doubts regarding my impartiality.”

Walker said, however, that the DeSantis’ team’s motion “was based on a misunderstanding of the law and an incorrect statement of facts.” The judge stated that the motion used cases “for their convenient words without acknowledging the gap between my statements in the case at hand and the conduct in question in those cases.”

DeSantis’ lawyers argued that Walker’s comments in a case about intellectual freedom on campus and the Stop Woke Act (a law that will be in effect in 2022 that restricts discussion of race, gender, and inequality in education and business) suggested that the governor’s actions against Disney was retaliatory.

Walker, in a filing on Thursday, wrote that the motion is “wholly lacking merit”.

“I consider the motion to be nothing more than judge-shopping.” This practice is all too common, he said.

Walker said, however, that he decided to disqualify from the case after learning last week that “a relative in the third degree owns thirty share of stock of Plaintiff’s parent company, The Walt Disney Company.” He stated that this could “substantially be affected” by the outcome.

The case was reassigned by the President Donald Trump to Judge Allen C. Winsor.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts sued DeSantis late in April. The company claimed that the government was retaliating against them for publicly opposing a law critics refer to as “Don’t Say Gay.” The lawsuit was a result of DeSantis’ threats to revoke Walt Disney World’s self-governing status.

DeSantis and Disney have been at odds for years. Disney’s special taxing district (formerly known as Reedy Creek Improvement District) had allowed it to run its Orlando parks on its own behalf. DeSantis took over the district’s operation earlier this year.

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