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Lawsuits & Litigation

Disney Moves to Narrow Claim Against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

— September 8, 2023

Disney has asked a federal court to allow its lawsuit to proceed as a First Amendment complaint.

Disney has moved to narrow the scope of its lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying that the controversial conservative politician retaliated against the company after it publicly opposed a state law restricting classroom discussion of gender identity and sexuality.

“A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights,” the lawsuit states.

According to CBS News, Disney on Friday asked a federal judge for permission to file an unamended complaint, which would leave only its First Amendment allegations in place.

“We will continue to fight vigorously to defend these contracts, because these agreements will determine whether or not Disney can invest billions of dollars and generate thousands of new jobs in Florida,” Disney said, explaining, in part, its decision to drop other state-level claims.

If approved, the company would continue to pursue a separate claim—relating to the legality of agreements signed with Disney’s governing district, the former Reedy Creek Improvement District—to a Florida state court.

DeSantis, adds CBS News, effectively took control of Reedy Creek in February, which he then reconstituted as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, or CFTOD.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at the 2021 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA. Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

The governor also appointed five people to replace Reedy Creek’s elected board, and suggested that he might impose taxes on Disney hotels.

Somewhat comically, DeSantis also said that he might place a prison near Walt Disney World.

However, Disney escalated its feud with Florida by stripping Reedy Creek of much of its authority, giving Disney power over regional development before handing the reins to its DeSantis-approved successor.

The agreements, writes CBS, shifted control and design of the theme park from Reedy Creek and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District back to Disney’s corporate headquarters. DeSantis has since challenged these provisions in state court.

In its federal filing, Disney maintains that Gov. DeSantis is waging a political war against the company for having simply taken a public stance against some of the state’s most controversial laws and initiatives.

“Disney faces concrete, imminent, and ongoing injury as a result of CFTOD’s new powers and composition, which are being used to punish Disney for expressing a political view,” Disney said in its motion.

The revised complaint would challenge “this unconstitutional weaponization of government by seeking a declaratory judgment that will allow Disney to pursue its future in Florida free from the ongoing retaliatory actions from the CFTOD Board.”

While presiding U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor had earlier rejected Disney’s request to narrow the lawsuit’s scope, he said that the company could refile its motion as long as it first liaised with DeSantis’s legal team.


Disney narrows its lawsuit against DeSantis to focus on free speech

Disney narrows lawsuit against Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis

Disney seeks to amend lawsuit against DeSantis to focus on free speech claim

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