Disney slams DeSantis’ argument for disqualifying judge in federal lawsuit

DeSantis Versus Disney
The latest in the legal fight between The Walt Disney Co. and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Disney pushed back on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempt to disqualify the federal judge presiding over the company’s civil lawsuit, according to new court documents.

Disney argued there is “a high bar to disqualification—otherwise, parties could too easily use (the law) to effectively veto judges whose decisions they do not like and shop for a judge more to their liking.”

Disney is suing DeSantis and the Governor-appointed members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, formerly known as Reedy Creek, in U.S. District Court. The entertainment giant accused the officials of retaliation after Disney spoke out against last year’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, known by critics as “Don’t Say Gay.”

DeSantis is seeking to get a new judge on the bench for the case, arguing Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker is biased and twice-made comments about Disney “as an example of state retaliation” during unrelated lawsuits, according to court documents.

But in the latest court documents, Disney argued it was not improper for the judge to make “passing references” to the fight over Reedy Creek, a story that was dominating the news at the time.

“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,” Disney said in court documents. “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.”

In the federal lawsuit, Disney points to laws which gave DeSantis the power to appoint new members onto Disney World’s governing board or allow the state to inspect the theme parks’ monorail for the first time as examples of Republicans’ payback against Disney.

“Having exhausted all other options, Disney is left with no choice but to bring this Complaint asking the Court to stop the State of Florida from weaponizing the power of government to punish private business,” Disney said in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the tourism board is countersuing Disney in Orange Circuit Court, arguing Disney illegally tried to keep control of the special taxing district by making long-term agreements with its outgoing board before the DeSantis appointees took it over.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • Ira

    May 29, 2023 at 10:26 am

    Ultimately Disney needs to stop fighting Florida and to start focusing on their business, on tourism and entertainment. Disney has already lost half its market capital and will lose even more even if it wins a few victories in court.

  • Earl Pitts American

    May 29, 2023 at 10:27 am

    Good morning America,
    Dook 4 brains
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts “THE BIG VOICE ON THE RIGHT” American

  • Michael K

    May 29, 2023 at 10:29 am

    Another hot mess from Governor DeSaster that has everything to do with his insecurities and fragile little ego, and nothing whatsoever to do with sound public policy.

    Never back down = keep on digging the hole deeper and deeper. Not such a bright move from the puffed-up Ivy League elitist that is costing us millions of dollars.

  • Earl Pitts American

    May 29, 2023 at 10:48 am

    Good morning again America,
    Those of you lucky enough to read and understand the wisdom of me, Earl Pitts American, have just witnessed the tipping point for Disney.
    Once a business gets on the nerves of me, Earl Pitts American, the awsome mighty and rightous power of the entire Earl Pitts American Fan Club is unleashed upon that business like the rightous plague of locusts which the good Lord, in his great wisdom, unleashed upon Egypt back in the day when they were messing with God’s Childern.
    Most of you will forever have this day burnt into your brains forever, and ever, and ever.
    But for the forgetfull amoungst us:
    Mark your calandars, to recall what happened, on this historic date in history.
    Thank you Ameticans and History Buffs Everywhere.
    Earl Pitts American

  • John Barron

    May 29, 2023 at 1:37 pm

    If Meatball Ron hates Disney so much why is Leona DeSanctus always dressing up like a Disney drag queen???

Comments are closed.


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