Federal Judge Removes Himself in Disney v. DeSantis Case

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U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker, the federal Judge presiding over the Walt Disney Company’s lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has recused himself from the case without warning. This a surprising turn of events because, just last month, he refused to step down.

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Disney is suing DeSantis for freedom of speech violations after Disney made comments that opposed the governor’s Parental Rights in Education Act (dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill by Critics). According to Disney, DeSantis has waged war against the company, using the weight of the government to retaliate against their oppositional stance to the law.

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DeSantis filed a motion last month to have the Judge presiding over the case dismissed, stating that the judge supported “woke policies” and “wouldn’t be fair.” Lawyers for DeSantis also claimed that in an unrelated case, Judge Walker engaged in a line of questioning that suggested a bias toward Disney.

The motion alleges that Walker brought up Disney “unpromoted” and asked, “What’s in the record, for example — is there anything in the record that says we are now going to take away Disney’s special status because they’re woke?” Since the case in question had nothing to do with Disney or their special governing district, Reedy Creek, that was evidence that the Judge would not be impartial.

Bob Iger

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Walker opposed the suggestion that he had “prejudged” the case and refused the motion saying that DeSantis was “judge shopping.” In his refusal, he wrote, “My use of hypothetical questions referencing facts related to this case, in an earlier case also dealing with the motivations of political actors (including some of the same actors here), cannot raise a substantial doubt about my impartiality in the mind of a full informed, disinterested lay person.”

Despite his disagreement with DeSantis’ legal team, Judge Walker went on to say that he had a duty to “evaluate all potential grounds for disqualification.” When he found one, he informed the courts right away. It seems a relative of his holds 30 shares of Disney stock. That amount isn’t worth much; we aren’t talking millions of dollars at play here. However, according to the law, even a $1 financial interest from a distant relative is enough to disqualify a judge. Because of this discovery, Walker removed himself as judge on the hotly debated case. The case has not been reassigned to Judge Allen C. Winsor, who will preside over the case going forward.


About Jill Bivins

Jill Bivins has been visiting Disney Parks since she was 2 years old and loves sharing her Disney adventures with the world. She likes to say Disney is in her blood and writing is in her bones — so any time she has the opportunity to combine these loves she is one happy camper! She has a deep abiding love for Epcot and as a die hard Star Wars fan has a serious love for Hollywood Studios as well. When she isn't exploring or writing about Disney Parks, Jill is homeschooling her 8 year old son, playing with her brand new baby son, or pretending to be a farmer on her family homestead (despite being unable to keep even a cactus alive). Find Jill on Instagram @minnieonmain.