A federal judge slated to preside over the lawsuit involving Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is stepping aside.
U.S. Chief District Judge Mark Walker decided to remove himself from the high-profile case after attorneys for the state pushed to disqualify him based on comments he made in court about the ongoing dispute between DeSantis and the entertainment giant, Politico reported.
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“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. “Maintaining public trust in the judiciary is paramount, perhaps now more than ever in the history of our Republic.”
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DeSantis has made his battle with Disney part of his political brand as he gears up for his 2024 presidential campaign.
The feud between Disney and DeSantis began last year when the company publicly came out against Florida’s “parental rights in education,” coined the Don’t Say Gay bill by critics, which bans classroom instruction about gender identity or sexual orientation in lower grades.
The lawsuit came after the board appointed by DeSantis to govern the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District — which houses the Walt Disney World resort — voted to nullify two development contracts Disney signed in February.
Disney is alleging that the Republican governor has engaged in a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company that violates Disney’s free speech rights.
Walker has presided over several legal proceedings involving DeSantis and Florida lawmakers.
Last year, Walker blocked parts of the DeSantis-backed “Stop WOKE Act” and in 2021 he stopped the state’s “anti-riot” legislation that had been championed by DeSantis.
Fox Business has reached out to Disney and DeSantis office.
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