Disney is opposing DeSantis’ request to overturn the judge in the free speech suit

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Disney vs request by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the judge overseeing the company’s First Amendment lawsuit against Florida’s governor and others, in which Disney says it was punished for speaking out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law .

Disney said in court documents Thursday that a request by DeSantis’ attorneys that announced his candidacy for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination earlier this week did not come close to meeting the standards set by Florida law to require a judge to be disqualified.

Last week, DeSantis’ attorneys filed a motion to disqualify Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who presides in federal court in Tallahassee. The filing said Walker was referring to the ongoing dispute between the DeSantis administration and Disney as he hears two related cases involving free speech issues and fears of retaliation for violating the new laws, which the governor and Republican lawmakers support. has done

Under Florida law, grounds for disqualification include bias and conflict of interest. In its response, Disney said the judge showed no bias.

“Judges are not prohibited from citing widely reported events during oral arguments, and should not recuse themselves if cases involving those events come before them months later,” Disney said in its filing.

Walker, who was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2012 and is now the district’s top judge, has said in court filings that he will not take action in the case until he decides whether to disqualify him.

The dispute between DeSantis and Disney began last year after the company, in the face of heavy pressure, opposed legislation on sexual orientation and gender identity classes in elementary schools, which critics said “Don’t say gay.”

As punishment, DeSantis took over the management district of Disney World through laws passed by legislators and appointing a new board of supervisors. Before the new board came in, the company signed deals with the old board, which was made up of Disney supporters. new supervisors were deprived design and construction agency.

In response, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed legislation that would have allowed the DeSantis-appointed board to overturn those agreements and put the theme park’s monorail system under state review when it previously was in-house. was done.

Disney filed a First Amendment lawsuit last month in federal court in Tallahassee against the Florida governor and the DeSantis board, alleging violations of the free speech and contracts clause. DeSantis’ panel was appointed earlier this month sued Disney in state court in Orlando to cancel the company’s deals with the previous board.

Last week, Disney announced that it was liquidation plans make new campus in central Florida and relocating 2,000 employees from Southern California to work in digital technology, finance and product development.

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