Judge assigned to Disney's lawsuit against Ron DeSantis disqualifies himself from presiding over the case

Jun 01, 2023 in "Reedy Creek Improvement District"

Posted: Thursday June 1, 2023 7:00pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Judge Mark E. Walker has disqualified himself from presiding over Disney's lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

Walker denied Ron DeSantis' motion to remove him from the case but decided disqualification was required due to a family member owning a small amount of stock in The Walt Disney Company.

The case has now been assigned to 46 year old Orlando-born Republican Judge Allen C Winsor, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2019.

Walker said in his order on disqualification.

"Although Defendant's motion to disqualify is without merit, I must consider a separate question of whether I should disqualify myself. On Friday, May 26, 2023, I learned, and later confirmed, that a relative within the third degree of relationship owns thirty shares of stock in Plaintiff's parent corporation, The Walt Disney Company. Upon learning this information, I became obligated to engage in a separate inquiry pursuant to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges to determine if the financial interest of my third-degree relative "could be substantially affected by the outcome of [this] proceeding." I have engaged sua sponte, stemmed from my doubt that I could set aside my resentment of the movant's scurrilous attacks on my family. Of course, in explaining my reasons for disqualification in Kelly, I am certainly not inviting parties to judge-shop by making scurrilous attacks on my family in future cases. I pause to note that the Code of Conduct for Unites States Judges does not impose a duty on judges to inquire into the financial interests of third-degree relatives. See Canon 3C(1)(d)(iii) in that inquiry and determined that disqualification from this proceeding is required under the circumstances.

You can read Walker's full filing here.

In the motion filed May 19, DeSantis claimed that Walker should disqualify himself from the case to "prevent even the appearance of impropriety." The claim relates to two unrelated cases where the Court offered "Disney" as an example of state retaliation.

Walker was nominated to serve as district judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida by President Barack Obama in 2012 and became chief judge in June 2018.

Discuss on the Forums

Stay in the Know with WDW News Delivered to Your Inbox

View all comments →

Stripes14 hours ago

Yeah, just go to Civil Case Records search and look up “Walt Disney Parks and Resorts” under Business Name. The case is on the second or third page of cases.

Isamar14 hours ago

The response IMO just oozes belligerent big-money lawyers who are used to bullying less powerful litigants into submission, which obviously isn’t going to happen here. Unfortunately, some of the arrogance may come from knowing that Desantis has appointed so many of Florida’s judges, especially appellate judges. (And of course the board members and their lawyers are very well-connected.) Some of the Disney requests they cited are interesting - I’ll grab some screenshots when I have some time later. BTW, someone has probably already posted this but for anyone catching up: the case docket, with the publicly-filed documents, is on the Orange County Clerk’s website. I’ll try to post a link to the docket but it will probably only take you to their search page, because they have a particularly annoying recaptcha. Link to the docket? (but probably the search page): https://myeclerk.myorangeclerk.com/CaseDetails?cItem=%2BTbi6Kj%2Fty6YyUOm0jEsQCqeu5lZ0egRFMYwvhvvViJ8Lda3Wr4WdfknS6j2HsywFMyZrubfXdWKnu%2BoB5R9oR%2FZ0YOeSml0eChyoBHnnhw%3D

mikejs7815 hours ago

It's been reported that the price was the same that is offered to all third party businesses operating within WDW. So for example, Sheraton had access to the same deal.

JoeCamel15 hours ago

You throw up a lot of flack to get your target through. Let's see if Disney gets what they really want when this all shakes out. Like charging multiple crimes in a criminal case you expect some to get tossed

GrumpyFan16 hours ago

For political appointees doing the governor's dirty work, they sure do think awfully highly of their positions. Do they really think that because the governor appointed them as his minions to rule over Disney that they are above the law? This just gets funnier with each salvo. Also, sounds like they've got something to hide and makes me really curious what will be exposed! LOL

Stripes16 hours ago


monothingie16 hours ago

I would assume so. I would also assume that the price RCID paid was not unique to RCID and was inline with similar offerings sold to other entities.

lazyboy97o16 hours ago

It is publicly available to all operating participants.

monothingie16 hours ago

Which should have been at publicly available pricing.

peter1143516 hours ago

That would open up some legal issues. Public employees accepting gifts….

yensid196717 hours ago

OK that makes sense! BUT you would think Disney would still offer it to them since they were grandfathered in and skip the district! Firefighters get an Annual Pass for keeping Disney World a safe place free of fire! but I guess the district would have a problem with that too!?

lazyboy97o17 hours ago

It’s a benefit sold by Disney that the District and other operating participants purchase.

yensid196717 hours ago

OK, I think I know where I misspoke...I was asking how the CFOD can take away Firefighters Annual Pass benefits. I understand that the firefighters work for the District, but how can the district take away a benefit that is offered by Disney? I might be missing something, but its OK...I'm old! LOL

MisterPenguin1 day ago