Disney’s lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has taken a turn with the presiding judge stepping down due to a conflict of interest. The lawsuit, filed by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc., claims that the governor orchestrated a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company. The allegations suggest that such actions would violate Disney’s free speech rights.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida after the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which houses Walt Disney World Resort, voted to invalidate two development contracts signed by Disney in February. Governor DeSantis recently appointed a board to oversee the district that houses Disney, and the complaint alleges that this move was retaliatory, anti-business, and unconstitutional.
However, in a recent order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Fitzpatrick has recused himself from the case, citing a conflict of interest. Fitzpatrick wrote that he is related “in the third degree” to someone employed by one of the parties in the lawsuit, requiring him to step down from the case. The lawsuit will now be assigned to a different judge.
“We are unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state,” Taryn Fenske, communications director for DeSantis, said. “This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”