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DeSantis Seeks To Disqualify Judge In Disney Case

DeSantis Seeks To Disqualify Judge In Disney Case

Motion: “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.”

We previously covered Disney’s lawsuit against DeSantis and Florida over the Reedy Creek fight, Disney sues DeSantis and Florida over Reedy Creek District Control. (Subsequently a First Amended Complaint was filed adding more DeSantis statements to the allegations.)

I noted in that post:

The case is assigned to Chief Judge Mark Walker, who has ruled against other legislation promoted by DeSantis, such as the “Stop Woke Act,” using bombastic language including an analogy to George Orwell.

Judge Walker has a long history of ruling against Republican Governors, including Rick Scott and now Ron DeSantis on a host of initiatives, including election integrity law, for which Walker was mostly reversed by the 11th Circuit, and the Stop Woke Act which is on appeal. The judge’s history is why so many people assume DeSantis will lose the Disney case in the trial court, hoping for reversal on appeal.

DeSantis has just filed a Motion to Disqualify Judge Walker claiming that statements by the judge outside of Disney case about the Disney case indicate the outcome has been prejudged, creating an appearance of bias.

From the Motion:

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 examples 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 examples in the motion are not of the judge sayings how he’ll rule in the Disney case, but rather using Disney as an example of the state retaliating against political opponents:

In Link v. Corcoran, No. 4:21-cv-271-MW-MAF (N.D. Fla.), the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction on the ground that the defendants—state education officials—would punish the plaintiffs for the results of their “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” surveys. Link, DE75 at 4. The plaintiffs argued that “[g]overnment reprisal is not a speculative risk” because “Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran have practically promised retaliation against Plaintiffs’ speech.” Id. at 21. At the preliminary-injunction hearing on April 1, 2022—amidst ongoing public speculation about the potential dissolution of Disney’s hand-picked local government, the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), DE25 at 19–20—this Court discussed justiciability and whether the plaintiffs had shown a reasonable fear of First Amendment retaliation. Link, DE91 at 15–24. Specifically, the Court questioned how the surveys alone posed a threat to the plaintiffs’ speech, because the statute at issue did not specify any “punitive measures that will be taken” by the Legislature or any other government entity based on the survey results. Id. at 15–18.

The Court then used the State’s contemplated dissolution of Disney’s special district as an example of retaliatory conduct:


THE COURT: …. 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? ….

In the second case, according to the motion, Disney once again was used as an example of state retaliation:

On the same day that SB 4C became law, the plaintiffs in Falls v. DeSantis, No. 4:22-cv-166-MW-MJF (N.D. Fla.), similarly moved for a preliminary injunction based, in part, on the argument that the state-level defendants would take enforcement action against the plaintiffs’ schools if the plaintiffs expressed opinions that violated the Individual Freedom Act, 6 thus chilling their speech. See Falls, DE4 at 49 (“[M]ost teachers and employers will choose to err on the side of caution and either avoid these topics altogether or espouse ideas with which Florida’s conservative politicians agree, rather than risk discipline, loss of funding, or a lawsuit.”).

At the preliminary-injunction hearing on June 21, 2022, this Court discussed the potential chilling effect of the State’s enforcement action ….

Turning to the defendants’ counsel, the Court continued:


THE COURT: And then Disney is going to lose its status because—arguably, because they made a statement that run afoul—ran afoul of state policy of the controlling party. At what point do you stack so many examples where punitive actions are taken if you don’t do what you are told that suddenly it no longer becomes conjectural and you pass that threshold so you can establish standing? It’s no longer fanciful or conjectural.

These examples showed, the motion argued, that a reasonable person would believe the court had already decided that the Reedy Creek actions by the state were retaliation — a key issue to be litigated in the Disney case. This, the state argued, created an appearance of impropriety requiring disqualification under the applicable statute:

The Court’s unprompted suggestion, on two separate occasions, that the State punished Disney by eliminating its “special status” gives an appearance of partiality that would lead a reasonable observer to question whether the Court is predisposed to ruling that the State retaliated against Disney….

The Court’s comments seemingly reflect its opinion on whether the State punished Disney’s speech by revoking Disney’s “special status.” That the Court made such statements gives the impression, at a minimum, that it has “an uncommon interest and degree of personal involvement in the subject matter” such that “a reasonable person would harbor a justified doubt as to [the Court’s] impartiality.” …. For these reasons, “an objective observer would reasonably doubt” that Defendants “would be treated impartially” before this Court.

Making a motion to disqualify is a big deal. You only do that as a last resort when you thing the case is rigged against you.

So what’s going to happen? 11th Circuit, here we come.


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Looks like DeSantis is right, not that it matters anymore, with a court system that no longer judges the evidence, but takes sides depending on its own biases.

Our judicial system is simply broken.

Far left pieces of trash like Walker and the infamous ‘Hawaii judges’ realize that there is ABSOLUTELY NO CONSEQUENCE for issuing ludicrously biased rulings, and then being overruled every time by a higher court.

That’s why they do crap like this. Because they simply DO NOT CARE if they get overturned on appeal. They got to spew their political crap and get their attaboys from their far left circle of friends.

    inspectorudy in reply to Olinser. | May 20, 2023 at 11:15 am

    Like so many things wrong with our country today, the judicial system is truly broken. There have to be consequences for any action in the field of law if a judge is overturned more than a number of times. There has to be a point where their actions show that they are out of the mainstream of Constitutional law and must step down from the bench. If there are no consequences for bad/ignorant behavior, why do we think it will ever change?

    buck61 in reply to Olinser. | May 20, 2023 at 11:19 pm

    This is how the radical judges build up credibility within the small core group of people who generate the list of names for future higher level appointments. One will certainly get noticed by going this route,, ever since Harry Reid decided to drop the 60 vote threshold to confirm the justice system has become more radical. This applies to both sides of the aisle. There are 100’s if not 1000’s who got confirmed and promoted because the 60 vote rule is no longer in place.

OwenKellogg-Engineer | May 20, 2023 at 6:34 am

Full court press. Give no quarter.

MoeHowardwasright | May 20, 2023 at 7:05 am

Chief Justice Roberts is the head of the judiciary. As such instead of allowing this judges comments (obvious bias) to work its way through the 11th circuit and up to him, should intervene immediately and disqualify this judge. The only way to stop this kind of behavior is to smack down these biased judges hard and publicly. There has been no discipline for decades. It’s time to start applying said discipline.

E Howard Hunt | May 20, 2023 at 7:15 am

To see what judges are really like watch the first 20 minutes of 1972’s “The Ruling Class.”

We in Florida are familiar with Judge Walker (Obama appointee) and no doubt he will rule against DeSantis in favor of Disney. (Of course Trump will praise Judge Walker as a great man, blah, blah, blah). Anyway, Walker’s ruling will favor the governor here simply because most of us here in the Sunshine State do not want to continue with exemptions for one company from “paying their fair share” of taxes instead of receiving continual Corporate Welfare on the backs of hard working Floridians. Oh, then there is the 11th Circus which will probably overall Walker as they often do.

How is it this judge ends up with this case to begin with? What system is used to appoint a judge to a case or so the judges just pick and chose as they see for?

Sounds like a very leftist-activist jurist. A real Sorosian jurist.