Judge Whose Daughter Works For Disney Removes Herself From Relocation Lawsuit

The judge in the case of two women suing Disney over its scrapped plan to move staffers 2,500 miles across the country has stepped down because her daughter works for Burbank-based conglomerate.

Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl stepped aside last week, and a new jurist — Judge Lawrence P. Riff — was assigned Wednesday to oversee the women’s lawsuit alleging that the company coerced them and other colleagues to relocate from Southern California to Orlando.

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In their misrepresentation and concealment suit filed June 18 in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), VP Product Design Maria De La Cruz and Director of Product Design George Fong allege that Disney in 2021 asked to relocate to the company’s planned new “campus” in the Lake Nona planned community in Olrando, promising them affordable housing, good schools and a new office with many benefits.

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De La Cruz and Fong say they gave up their California residences in 2022 and bought new homes in Orlando, where home prices had actually increased due to the new Disney facility. The project was canceled in 2023 amid “considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project,” Disney Parks chief Josh D’Amaro said at the time. The company had planned to relocate about 2,000 staffers, including the plaintiffs.

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Casting aside its 2021 proclamations of “Florida’s business-friendly climate, the state’s generous $500 million tax credit offer and then-Disney chief Bob Chapek’s idea of an amalgamation of resources, Disney pulled the plug on the ambitious $1 billion and more Lake Nona project in May 2023. The death knell was a consequence of the company’s bitter but now-concluded legal battle with onetime presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis over his state’s Parental Rights in Education legislation — aka the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — so-called “woke” corporate polices and bureaucratic control of the area around Walt Disney World.

A status conference on the lawsuit case is set September 20 in Los Angeles.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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