A recent development in the legal battle between GOP Presidential primary candidate Ron DeSantis and entertainment giant, Walt Disney Co. DIS may not play out to the advantage of the Florida governor.
What Happened: Judge Allen Winsor, who has been appointed to oversee the lawsuit, in place of Judge Mark Walker, is a nominee of former President Donald Trump, the New York Times reported.
The development assumes importance as DeSantis is pitted against Trump in the 2024 GOP primary.
Winsor was solicitor general of Florida under former state Attorney General Pam Bondi, who defended Trump during his first impeachment trial.
Walker, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Florida, recused himself from the trial. The judge reportedly said he learned last week one of his “third-degree” relatives held 30 shares of Disney and this could raise integrity issues.
Incidentally, DeSantis’ lawyers have earlier asked for the dismissal of Walker on doubts about his impartiality, as he twice mentioned the governor’s actions against Disney in unrelated court cases last year. Walker is an appointee of former President Barack Obama. Disney, meanwhile, opposed any such move.
While announcing his decision to recuse himself, Walker slammed DeSantis’ legal team for seeking his disqualification, reasoning that the motion lacked merit and amounted to “nothing more than rank judge-shopping”
Why It’s Important: Disney’s lawsuit filed in late April accused DeSantis of penalizing the company for its stance against the state’s “don’t say gay” law. The governor canceled the special rights given to Disney to independently govern the land surrounding its Florida park.
Disney for its part shelved a $1 billion project to relocate some of its California employees to Florida.
Market watchers say that the standoff with Disney is likely to impact DeSantis, who is already trailing behind Trump in opinion polls. Disney’s reputation has also taken a hit from the unsavory development. An Axios poll found that the company’s reputation has fallen further this year, with the negative opinion expressed mostly by Republicans.
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