The Florida federal judge presiding over Disney’s lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis has recused himself due to a conflict of interest.
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc., filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Wednesday, accusing DeSantis of orchestrating a “targeted campaign of government retaliation,” which would violate the company’s free speech rights.
Disney filed the lawsuit after the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which houses Walt Disney World Resort, voted to invalidate two development contracts that Disney signed in February.
DeSantis recently appointed a board to oversee the district housing Disney.
In Friday’s order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Fitzpatrick wrote he’s related “in the third degree” to someone employed by one of the parties in the lawsuit, which requires his recusal from the case.
The case will be assigned to a different judge, according to the order.
“This government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional,” the complaint alleges. “But the Governor and his allies have made clear they do not care and will not stop.”
DeSantis’ office responded to the lawsuit by pointing out Disney’s special district status.
“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.”