DeSantis questions Judge’s impartiality over dispute with Walt Disney Co.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican considering a 2024 presidential run, has requested the disqualification of a federal judge overseeing a dispute between him and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), citing concerns about the judge’s impartiality. DeSantis is being sued by Disney, who accuses him of targeting the company due to its leadership’s political views. The motion for recusal was filed by DeSantis’ lawyers in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday, seeking the removal of US District Judge Mark Walker from the case.

Disney filed the lawsuit in April, claiming that DeSantis had “weaponized” the state government in retaliation for the company’s criticism of a law prohibiting discussions on sexuality and gender identity in classrooms with younger children. This law, referred to as the “don’t say gay” law by opponents, drew significant attention. Disney’s lawsuit alleges that DeSantis rallied the Republican-controlled legislature to take action against what he called “woke Disney” and gain control over an administrative district that had aided Disney in the development of its theme parks and resorts. The district, originally known as Reedy Creek Improvement District, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

DeSantis’ legal team argues that Judge Walker exhibited potential bias in previous cases where he mentioned Disney as an example of state retaliation. They contend that the judge’s impartiality in the current case could be reasonably questioned based on these statements. As DeSantis prepares to enter the Republican presidential nomination contest, potentially challenging front-runner Donald Trump, this legal dispute with Disney adds another layer to his political trajectory. The eventual Republican nominee is expected to face President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the November 2024 presidential election.

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