DeSantis is seeking the disqualification of the judge from Disney’s free speech lawsuit

Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking the disqualification of a federal judge from the First Amendment lawsuit Disney has filed against the Florida governor and his designees, alleging that the attorney’s previous testimonies in other cases cast doubt on his impartiality regarding the Florida governor’s efforts State to take over Disney raised The governing body of the world.

DeSantis’ attorney on Friday filed a motion in federal court in Tallahassee to bar Chief US District Judge Mark Walker from overseeing the lawsuit filed by Disney last month. The lawsuit alleges that DeSantis and its agents violated the company’s freedom of speech and contractual clause by taking over the special administrative region previously controlled by Disney supporters after Disney opposed a Florida law dubbed “Don” by critics. “Don’t say gay.”


The Republican governor’s motion came a day after Disney announced it was scrapping plans to build a new campus in central Florida and relocate 2,000 employees from Southern California to work in digital technology, finance and product development, and that amid an ongoing feud with DeSantis.

DeSantis’ filing said Walker cited the ongoing dispute between his government and Disney during hearings in two independent lawsuits before him, over issues of free speech and fears of retaliation for violations of new laws introduced by DeSantis and Republican legislators were represented. One was a First Amendment lawsuit filed by Florida professors against a new law that introduced a poll on “liberty of thought and diversity of opinion” on state campuses.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a policy roundtable in Bedford, NH on Friday, May 19, 2023 (Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo)

Walker, who was nominated for the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2012 and is now the district chief justice, dismissed that lawsuit on the grounds that the professors had no authority to challenge the law advocated by DeSantis and the Florida legislature.

In the first case, Walker said, “For example, what’s on the record — is there anything on the record that says we’re going to revoke Disney’s special status now because they woke up?”


In the second case, the judge said, “And then Disney will lose its status because — arguably because they made a statement that conflicts with state policy of the controlling party,” the DeSantis filing reads.

Disney and DeSantis have been in a tug-of-war for more than a year, which has drawn criticism for the GOP governor as he prepares to launch an anticipated presidential bid next week.

Disney World

People visit Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida April 18, 2022. The continued strength of its theme parks and an improving streaming business led The Walt Disney Co. to higher earnings and sales in its fiscal second quarter in 2023. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

The feud began after Disney publicly opposed the state in the face of significant pressure for having early-grade classes on sexual orientation and gender identity that critics dubbed “don’t say gay.”

As punishment, DeSantis, through legislation passed by the Legislature, took over Disney World’s self-governing district and appointed a new board of directors. Before the new board came in, the company signed agreements with the old board that stripped the new managers of design and construction authority.

Tim Allen Tom Hanks

This handout from Disney Resorts features DisneyPixar’s Toy Story 4 stars Woody (in costume), Tom Hanks (2nd-L), Tim Allen (2nd-R) and Buzz Lightyear (in costume) with characters from the Movie set in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort on June 8, 2019 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Matt Stroshane/Disney Resorts via Getty Images)

In response, the Florida Republican-controlled legislature passed legislation allowing the DeSantis-appointed board of directors to rescind those agreements, and made the theme park-resort monorail system subject to state inspection, while this had previously been done internally.

Disney filed the First Amendment lawsuit against DeSantis and the Disney-appointed board of directors in federal court in Tallahassee last month, which ended up with Walker. The Disney-appointed board sued Disney in a state court in Orlando earlier this month to void the agreements the company made with the previous board.


The creation of Disney’s self-governing district by the Florida Legislature was pivotal in the company’s decision to build near Orlando in the 1960s. Disney told the state at the time that it was planning to build a futuristic city with a transportation system and urban innovations, so the company needed autonomy. However, the futuristic city never materialized and instead turned into a second theme park, which opened in 1982.

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