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Federal judge disqualifies himself from hearing Disney lawsuit

A federal judge on Thursday disqualified himself from hearing Walt Disney Co’s civil suit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other state officials, citing a small financial interest in the company by a relative.

Disney sued DeSantis in late April, asking a court to overturn state efforts to control the Disney World theme park, intensifying a battle between the global entertainment giant and the governor, who is now seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote that the relative’s financial interest, 30 shares of Disney stock, could be affected by the outcome of the proceeding.

“Even though I believe it is unlikely that these proceedings will have a substantial effect on the Walt Disney Company, I choose to err on the side of caution — which here, is also the side of judicial integrity — and disqualify myself,” Walker wrote.

Walker denied DeSantis’ motion that he disqualify himself because of questions about his impartiality. Walker said the motion lacked merit and that it amounted to “nothing more than rank judge-shopping.”

The judge, who was appointed by former Democratic President Barack Obama, has struck down several laws that defined DeSantis’ conservative political agenda, including statutes that sought to limit the speech of college professors, curtailed protests and restricted voting access.

In its lawsuit, Disney accused DeSantis and his supporters of illegally using the state government to punish a company for voicing an opinion that should be protected by free-speech rights.

DeSantis has argued that Disney, which employs roughly 75,000 people in Florida, had been enjoying unfair advantages for decades. US News

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