Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ legal team has taken its next move in the lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida leaders by Disney. Today the team filed a motion to disqualify Chief Judge Mark E. Walker from the case. The motion argues that Walker’s impartiality could reasonably be questioned.
This is a step by the DeSantis legal team to protect the Florida Governor and other followers mentioned in the lawsuit from a Disney win, which would most likely put the former Reedy Creek Improvement District back in the direction of its former image. This would all be determined by any ruling that Walker could potentially make and also depend on how much of what Disney wants in the lawsuit it got.
The opening of the motion to disqualify Judge Walker can be read here:
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISQUALIFY CHIEF JUDGE MARK E. WALKER
Defendants move to disqualify Chief Judge Mark E. Walker (the Court) under 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) because the Court’s impartiality in this matter might reasonably be questioned. This case involves claims that Defendants retaliated against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc. based on Disney’s viewpoints. Yet two previous times, in two unrelated cases, the Court sua sponte offered “Disney” as an example of state retaliation. Those remarks—each derived from extrajudicial sources—were on the record, in open court, and could reasonably imply that the Court has prejudged the retaliation question here. Because that question is now before this Court, and because that question involves highly publicized matters of great interest to Florida’s citizens, the Court should disqualify itself to prevent even the appearance of impropriety.
The lawsuit was filed by Disney immediately after the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District voted to nullify a development agreement that was made between Disney and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. Since then, the new district has filed a countersuit and the Florida legislature passed a bill that also gave the district the power to nullify the contract. Governor DeSantis then filed it into law.
The conflict began in 2022 when Disney came out against a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This led to DeSantis leading efforts to rid the state of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. In the end, the district remained mainly intact and in its former state other than some important changes. One of these changed the name to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Another change came to the board, which was now appointed by the Florida Governor. There were also some other reporting and oversight changes that were a part of the new district’s creation.
Before the change was made, Disney and Reedy Creek Improvement District signed a development agreement that charted the future of the district and empowered Disney to keep moving forward. This was done publicly. However, the focus by state officials was on the replacement of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and not on what was actually being done in the district. This has led to unfounded accusations of the deal being made in secret. The controversy since then has continued to escalate.
It is more than likely that the resolution for this conflict will come from the courts, and quite possibly from the case that is currently being presented to Chief Judge Walker, or whoever ends up hearing it. The full motion can be read here:gov.uscourts.flnd_.463456.33.0
Daps Magic will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.