Disney lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dismissed News
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Disney lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dismissed

A federal judge in Florida dismissed Disney’s lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Secretary of Commerce on Wednesday for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. Disney sued DeSantis, the Secretary and and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) for alleged violations of the company’s First Amendment right to free speech under the US Constitution.

Disney initiated the lawsuit after Florida passed a dissolution bill that transferred control of the CFTOD from the company to a board selected by DeSantis. The company alleged that the bill was retaliation to their opposition to DeSantis’ policies, specifically Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Disney controlled the board selection process for several decades prior to the passage of the bill. In the suit, Disney asked for an injunction against implementation of the bill and decisions of the CFTOD.

US District Judge Allen Winsor cited two grounds for dismissal of the lawsuit. First, Allen stated that Disney failed to show standing against each defendant it sued. In order to demonstrate standing, Allen stated that Disney must show (1) an injury, (2) traceable to the action of the defendant and (3) that injury was likely to be fully or partially remedied by a favorable decision.

Allen stated that Disney failed to show how DeSantis and the secretary caused a traceable injury in need of remedy. He stated that because the passage of the bill and governor’s selection of the CFTOD board members was completed, there was no “imminent future injury,” or need for an injunction as a remedy. Furthermore, Allen stated that Disney had not show any alleged facts that imminent future appointments by the governor would contribute to its harm. However, the judge conceded that Disney showed possible standing against the CFTOD.

In addressing the possible standing against the CFTOD, Allen dismissed the case on the second ground—failure to state a claim. Disney alleged that lawmakers passed the statute as retaliation for their opposition to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law. However, Allen stated that “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.” Here, the statute allowing the governor to appoint CFTOD board members did not, on its face, implicate First Amendment protections. Additionally, Disney could not point to any actions taken by the board that implicated free speech.

The dismissal of the suit was welcomed by DeSantis’ office. Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern stated on X (formerly Twitter), “The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone.”

Disney may now appeal the decision. The CFTOD also countersued Disney. They alleged that the company tried to illegally circumvent board control.