Federal Judge Throws Out Disney Lawsuit Against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis: Implications for Free Speech and Corporate Power

On January 30, 2024, at 8:09 AM PST, news broke that a federal judge had thrown out a lawsuit filed by Disney against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.[0] The lawsuit came after Disney criticized a law that restricted conversations about sexuality and gender in schools.[1] Disney alleged that Governor DeSantis retaliated against the company by eliminating a special taxing district that Disney had operated autonomously since 1967.[2] However, the judge ruled that Disney lacked legal standing to sue DeSantis and the secretary of Florida’s Commerce Department for violating its First Amendment rights.

The ruling was seen as a legal victory for Governor DeSantis, who has been a prominent figure in Florida politics. The judge stated that Disney’s argument that it was unlawfully punished over free speech lacked merit. The ruling also noted that the changes made to Disney’s former special district actually worked to the company’s detriment, as it now faced land use decisions by a board over which it had no control.[3]

In response to the ruling, Disney stated that it would appeal the decision.[0] A spokesperson for the company said, “This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here.” Disney argued that if left unchallenged, the ruling could set a dangerous precedent and give states the ability to punish political viewpoints they disagree with.[4] The company remained determined to press forward with its case.[5]

Governor DeSantis’s spokesperson, Jeremy Redfern, celebrated the ruling, stating, “The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone.”[3] He argued that the ruling made it clear that Disney was just one of many corporations in the state and did not have the right to its own special government.[6]

The legal battle between Disney and Governor DeSantis began after Disney opposed the Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.[7] This law banned discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.[8] Disney accused DeSantis of using his position to punish the company for expressing its disagreement with the law.[9]

The lawsuit, commonly referred to as “Disney v. DeSantis,” was filed in April and alleged that DeSantis engaged in a targeted campaign of government retaliation against the company.[10] The lawsuit argued that the state’s actions not only harmed Disney’s business but also had broader implications for free speech.[11]

The judge’s ruling emphasized that Disney’s claim of injury resulting from the newly appointed board members was in the past and that the company failed to show damages from specific actions taken by the new board or because of DeSantis’ alleged interference.[12]

The ruling has significant implications for the relationship between corporations and state governments. It raises questions about the extent to which corporations can challenge government actions and whether they have the right to their own special government. The case will likely continue to attract attention as it moves forward through the appeals process.

In conclusion, a federal judge has dismissed Disney’s lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.[2] The judge ruled that Disney lacked legal standing to sue DeSantis and the state’s Commerce Department for violating its First Amendment rights. The ruling was seen as a victory for DeSantis, who has been a prominent figure in Florida politics. Disney has stated that it will appeal the decision, arguing that the case has serious implications for the rule of law and free speech. The ruling raises important questions about the relationship between corporations and state governments and the limits of their power.

0. “Judge dismisses Disney’s lawsuit alleging retaliation by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis” CNBC, 31 Jan. 2024, https://www.cnbc.com/2024/01/31/judge-dismisses-disney-lawsuit-against-florida-gov-ron-desantis-alleging-retaliation.html

1. “Why the judge ruled against Disney’s First Amendment claim, and what’s next in the fight” WFTV Orlando, 1 Feb. 2024, https://www.wftv.com/news/local/why-judge-ruled-against-disneys-first-amendment-claim-whats-next-fight/M4DHFXCOTNAGDEVJGCZWARZX5E/

2. “Jerome Powell praises US economy | Latest US politics news from The Economist” The Economist, 1 Feb. 2024, https://www.economist.com/in-brief/2024/02/01/bipartisan-tax-bill-passes-house-biden-orders-settler-sanctions

3. “Judge dismisses Disney suit against DeSantis over special tax district” The Washington Post, 31 Jan. 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2024/01/31/disney-desantis-florida-lawsuit-gay

4. “Disney lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed by federal judge” News 13 Orlando, 31 Jan. 2024, https://www.mynews13.com/fl/orlando/news/2024/01/31/disney-lawsuit-against-gov–ron-desantis-dismissed-by-federal-judge

5. “Disney Lawsuit Against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and State Board Is Dismissed by Judge” TravelPulse, 31 Jan. 2024, https://www.travelpulse.com/news/entertainment/disney-lawsuit-against-florida-governor-ron-desantis-and-state-board-is-dismissed-by-judge

6. “Judge dismisses Disney lawsuit against DeSantis” Osceola News-Gazette, 31 Jan. 2024, https://www.aroundosceola.com/news-statewide-news/judge-dismisses-disney-lawsuit-against-desantis

7. “The Empire Strikes Back! Disney To Appeal Legal Loss To Ron DeSantis In Free Speech Battle” Deadline, 1 Feb. 2024, https://deadline.com/2024/02/disney-desantis-lawsuit-appeal-1235811238/

8. “Disney appeals dismissal of lawsuit alleging retaliation by DeSantis administration” Miami Herald, 1 Feb. 2024, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article284956592.html

9. “Judge Tosses Disney Lawsuit, Greenlights Ron DeSantis Retaliation” The New Republic, 31 Jan. 2024, https://newrepublic.com/post/178619/judge-tosses-disney-lawsuit-ron-desantis-retaliation

10. “Trump-appointed judge rejects Disney’s lawsuit against DeSantis” MSNBC, 1 Feb. 2024, https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/maddowblog/trump-appointed-judge-rejects-disneys-lawsuit-desantis-rcna136731

11. “Judge Dismisses Disney Lawsuit That Claimed DeSantis Had Retaliated Against the Company” FlaglerLive.com, 31 Jan. 2024, https://flaglerlive.com/judge-dismisses-disney-lawsuit

12. “Disney Loses Lawsuit Against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis” Kotaku, 31 Jan. 2024, https://kotaku.com/disney-world-lawsuit-florida-ron-desantis-dismissed-1851214174

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