A federal judge overseeing Disney’s First Amendment case against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) recused himself from the case after the state pushed for him to be disqualified.
Disney is suing DeSantis for what it claims is a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” for the company’s public opposition to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Last month, DeSantis asked that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Walker be removed from the case, arguing that Walker’s past comments showed a lack of impartiality.
The remarks, which the motion pointed out had come from “extrajudicial sources” and were on record, had reasonably implied that “the Court has prejudged the retaliation question here.”
At the time, Disney pushed back on the motion, saying that Walker’s comments pertained to “year-old hypothetical questions” based on “widely-publicized statements” and hadn’t drawn any conclusions about those statements.
Walker, appointed by former President Obama, wrote in a 14-page order that while DeSantis’ motion to fire him was “meritless,” he would recuse himself from the case because he recently learned that a “third-degree” relative owns 30 shares of Disney stock.
Walker wrote that he didn’t believe the lawsuit would have a “substantial effect” on the Mickey Mouse house stock but was choosing to “err on the side of caution” and disqualify himself from the case.
Walker added that it was important “now more than ever” to maintain the public’s confidence in the judicial system and shared being confident that his colleagues could “preside over the remainder of this case.”