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Court Dismisses Disney’s Lawsuit Against Florida Over Losing Private Control Of Government

Ron DeSantis giving an interview.
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A federal judge dismissed the Walt Disney Company’s lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida officials on Wednesday, ruling the company lacked standing and evidence to bring its suit.

Writing for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Judge Allen Winsor ruled that Disney has no legal basis for suing DeSantis and Florida’s secretary of commerce in response to the state’s restructuring of the Reedy Creek Improvement District into the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD). The former allowed Disney to essentially be its own local government.

“In short, Disney lacks standing to sue the Governor or the Secretary,” Winsor wrote, dismissing the company’s lawsuit.

The dispute between DeSantis and Disney began nearly two years ago, after the latter launched a grossly dishonest attack against Florida Republicans for passing a parental rights bill. The bill prevents educators from instructing children in kindergarten through third grade on sexual orientation and so-called “gender identity.” Bending the knee to Democrats and their media allies — who maliciously labeled the law as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek parroted leftist lies that the law “could be used to target [LGBT] kids and families.”

Chapek also claimed the company would be “reassessing [its] approach to advocacy, including political giving in Florida and beyond.”

DeSantis and Florida Republicans passed legislation shortly thereafter that stripped Disney of its self-oversight authority within the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The Florida governor later announced five new appointees to the district’s board in February 2023 after state legislators approved legislation renaming the jurisdiction to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

In an attempt to out-maneuver DeSantis, then-Reedy Creek officials, as The Federalist’s Tristan Justice reported, passed an “11th-hour resolution to hand Disney maximum authority over the company’s 27,000 acres in central Florida,” which effectively left DeSantis’ CFTOD-appointees “powerless to govern Disney in their own state.” DeSantis ordered an investigation into the matter in April 2023 after Disney reportedly “skipped key steps when amending its developmental agreement, rendering the resolution null and void.”

It was Florida’s launch of the investigation that prompted Disney to file a federal lawsuit alleging a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” by DeSantis and state officials against the company for its opposition to the parental rights bill.

Citing a prior court ruling, Winsor determined that Disney presented no evidence to justify its claims that Florida’s actions were retaliatory and violated its First Amendment rights to free speech. Disney’s “claims against the CFTOD Defendants fail on the merits because ‘when a statute is facially constitutional, a plaintiff cannot bring a free-speech challenge by claiming that the lawmakers who passed it acted with a constitutionally impermissible purpose,'” Winsor wrote.

DeSantis Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern celebrated Wednesday’s ruling in a tweet, reaffirming prior remarks from the Florida governor that “the Corporate Kingdom is over.”

“The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone,” Redfern wrote. “The federal court’s decision made it clear that Governor DeSantis was correct: Disney is still just one of many corporations in the state, and they do not have a right to their own special government.”


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