(TND) — Disney is opposing an effort by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to have the judge presiding over its free speech lawsuit against the governor removed from the case.
In court documents filed late Thursday, Disney argued that the request to have Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker does not meet the standard set by Florida law to have him removed from the case.
Attorneys for the governor had requested that Walker be removed from the case over statements he made during other unrelated free speech cases he was hearing, claiming those comments raised questions about his impartiality. Walker was nominated to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
Disney said referring to news reports does not mean the judge should be removed.
Judges are not prohibited form referring accurately to widely-reported news events during oral arguments, nor must they disqualify themselves if cases related to those events happen to come before them months later,” Disney’s attorneys wrote.
DeSantis, who launched his long-awaited presidential campaign earlier this week, has been in a high-profile feud with Disney over objections the company made to an education bill dictating lessons on sexual orientation and gender that critics have dubbed as “Don’t Say Gay.” Culture war issues and fighting "wokeism" have been central themes in DeSantis' campaign and governorship.
After Disney spoke out against the law, DeSantis took over the company’s self-governing district and appointed his own set of supervisors. Disney found a workaround to strip the new board of its legal authority, which was then overwritten by the state legislature.
Disney took DeSantis and the board to court, arguing the state was violating its free speech rights. It has also announced that it was abandoning plans to build a campus in Florida so it could relocate 2,000 employees from California.