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Tags: judge | recuse | disney | florida | ron desantis | lawsuit

Judge Recuses Himself From Disney-DeSantis Suit

By    |   Friday, 02 June 2023 09:03 AM EDT

A federal judge in Florida has recused himself from a court case brought by Disney against Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.

In his ruling late Thursday, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Chief Judge Mark E. Walker accused DeSantis of "rank judge shopping" after the governor had requested the judge step aside.

Walker said he recused himself after learning last week that a relative of his owned 30 shares of Disney stock.

The judge said he had no choice but to step aside since his relative's "financial interest" could be affected by the case.

"Even though I believe it is highly unlikely that these proceedings will have a substantial effect on The Walt Disney Company, I choose to err on the side of caution — which, here, is also the side of judicial integrity — and disqualify myself," Walker wrote in a 14-page order, Politico reported.

"Maintaining public trust in the judiciary is paramount, perhaps now more than ever in the history of our Republic."

The case, filed by Disney last month, was reassigned to Judge Allen C. Winsor, who was appointed to the court in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported.

DeSantis late last month asked that Walker be disqualified from the First Amendment lawsuit filed, claiming the jurist's prior statements in other cases have raised questions about his impartiality on the state's efforts to take over Disney World's governing body.

Walker, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, twice mentioned DeSantis' actions against Disney in unrelated court cases last year, the Times reported.

Disney then filed a motion countering that Walker's comments didn't meet the high standards for a judge to be removed from a case.

Walker agreed with the company, saying the cited remarks "cannot raise a substantial doubt about my impartiality in the mind of a fully informed, disinterested lay person."

In April, Disney sued DeSantis in federal court, asking it to overturn state efforts to control Disney World.

The corporation accused DeSantis and his administration of illegally using the state government to punish a company for voicing an opinion that should be protected by free-speech rights.

In February, DeSantis signed a bill that gives him new power over the Walt Disney Company by ending the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body that provided the entertainment giant unique powers in Central Florida for more than half a century.

The move came after Disney took a public stance last year against the Republican-led legislature's Parental Rights in Education law.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

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A federal judge in Florida has recused himself from a court case brought by Disney against Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.
judge, recuse, disney, florida, ron desantis, lawsuit
Friday, 02 June 2023 09:03 AM
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