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Disney rips DeSantis bid to disqualify judge in lawsuit

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Chairman of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Disney urged a federal court to reject a request by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to disqualify the judge overseeing the corporate’s lawsuit accusing the governor and his allies of political retaliation.

Attorneys for DeSantis had argued that Judge Mark Walker should recuse himself from the lawsuit over his comments in two separate cases that referenced the clash between the governor and the entertainment giant.

Disney — which has been feuding with DeSantis since last yr, when the corporate got here out against his bill that critics have labeled “Don’t Say Gay” — responded that the defendants’ argument failed to satisfy the legal standard for disqualification.

“Judges are usually not prohibited from referring accurately to widely-reported news events during oral arguments, nor must they disqualify themselves if cases related to those events occur to return before them months later,” Disney’s lawyers argued in a court filing Thursday.

“Disqualification is allowed provided that the prior comments expose an incapacity on the judge’s part to contemplate the brand new case by itself merits,” the lawyers wrote, adding that the judge’s comments in query “come nowhere near that standard.”

Disney’s lawsuit alleges that DeSantis “orchestrated at every step” a campaign to punish the corporate for speaking out against a Florida bill limiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. That alleged scheme now threatens the corporate’s business, Disney alleges.

“The case that we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said through the company’s earnings call earlier this month. “And that is really that that is about one thing and one thing only and that is retaliating against us for taking a position about pending laws.”

The hassle to remove Walker because the judge in Disney’s civil case in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, Florida, got here days before DeSantis launched his 2024 presidential campaign. The governor, who’s seen as former President Donald Trump’s major competition for the GOP nomination, has gained a national profile for engaging in quite a few political battles.

The long-running fight between the ambitious politician and considered one of his state’s top employers spilled into the courts after the governor’s handpicked officials voted to cancel Disney’s development deals for its Orlando-area parks.

Disney filed its suit in late April after the brand new board of its special district voted to undo development contracts that the corporate said it struck to secure its investments. The corporate has since updated that lawsuit to incorporate newly passed laws targeting its monorail system as further evidence of retaliation by the governor.

DeSantis’ next volley was to maneuver to have Walker replaced. Walker was nominated to function judge for america District Court for the Northern District of Florida in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama.

In 2018, Walker ruled against the state and ordered then-Governor Rick Scott to revive voting rights of felons after their release from prison.

That very same yr, he ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to proceed providing a transgender woman prisoner with hormone treatment and to offer her with women’s undergarments and grooming products. The prisoner, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, was housed in a male-only correctional facility.

Representatives for DeSantis didn’t immediately reply to CNBC’s request for comment.

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