Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Files Motion to Dismiss Disney Lawsuit, Sparks Debate on Free Speech and Legislative Immunity

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has filed a Motion to Dismiss the federal lawsuit that The Walt Disney Company filed against him earlier this year.[0] The suit alleges that DeSantis is using his political power to retaliate against and penalize Disney for exercising its First Amendment rights.[1] In response, DeSantis and his legal counsel argue that Disney lacks standing to sue the governor and the secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity because they do not enforce any of the laws at issue.[2]

The lawsuit stems from a key issue regarding a law passed in Florida that invalidated development-related agreements between Disney and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District board.[3] This board had been controlled by Disney for decades, but the legislature disbanded it and gave DeSantis the authority to appoint members of the successor Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board.[3] Disney argues that the state violated its rights under the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution.[4]

The motion to dismiss also highlights DeSantis’ entitlement to legislative immunity, which shields both governors and legislators from legal action related to the proposal, formulation, and passage of legislation.[5] The attorneys representing DeSantis and the secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity argue that they are immune from suit and should be dismissed from the lawsuit.

The legal battle between DeSantis and Disney has garnered significant attention, with critics arguing that DeSantis’ attacks on Disney have made the company appear sympathetic.[6] Some speculate that DeSantis launched these attacks after Disney opposed his legislation known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which restricts teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender in Florida classrooms.[7] However, DeSantis’ tactics have seemingly backfired, with even former President Donald Trump criticizing the governor’s excessive attacks on Disney.[8]

Meanwhile, Disney’s lawsuit has implications beyond Florida. The company has faced opposition to its expansion plan called DisneylandForward in California, after city officials initially refused to prioritize it. The plan, which Disney has since modified to be more modest, reflects the company’s recognition that it no longer holds the same level of influence it once did in Anaheim.[6] Disney has used various means, including gifts, investment promises, philanthropy, and political power, to secure numerous tax rebates, bonds, and subsidies from the city.

As the legal battle between DeSantis and Disney continues, it remains to be seen how the court will rule on the motion to dismiss. The outcome could have significant implications not only for the relationship between the company and the governor but also for the balance of power between corporations and government entities.

0. “BREAKING: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Files Motion to Dismiss Disney’s Federal Lawsuit” WDW News Today, 26 Jun. 2023, https://wdwnt.com/2023/06/breaking-florida-governor-ron-desantis-files-motion-to-dismiss-disneys-federal-lawsuit/

1. “FL Gov. Ron DeSantis Files Motion to Dismiss Disney Lawsuit” The DIS, 26 Jun. 2023, https://www.wdwinfo.com/news-stories/fl-gov-ron-desantis-files-motion-to-dismiss-disneys-federal-lawsuit/

2. “Ron DeSantis Vs. Disney: Governor Requests Federal Judge To Throw Out Lawsuit, Citing Broad Immunity – Wa” Benzinga, 27 Jun. 2023, https://www.benzinga.com/news/23/06/33017055/ron-desantis-vs-disney-governor-requests-federal-judge-to-throw-out-lawsuit-citing-broad-immunity

3. “Gov. DeSantis, Central Florida District target Disney lawsuit” CBS News, 26 Jun. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/gov-desantis-central-florida-district-target-disney-lawsuit/

4. “DeSantis, others file motion to dismiss Disney lawsuit” The Business Journals, 27 Jun. 2023, https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2023/06/27/florida-desantis-cftod-disney-dismiss-lawsuit.html

5. “Ron DeSantis Files Motion to Dismiss Disney Lawsuit, Claims ‘Legislative Immunity'” TheWrap, 26 Jun. 2023, https://www.thewrap.com/ron-desantis-disney-lawsuit-motion-immunity/

6. “Anaheim Shows Ron DeSantis How to Build a Better Mickey Mousetrap” zocalopublicsquare.org, 27 Jun. 2023, https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2023/06/27/136539/ideas/connecting-california/

7. “Anaheim, not Florida, is the best Disney fighter” VC Star, 22 Jun. 2023, https://www.vcstar.com/story/opinion/2023/06/22/anaheim-not-florida-is-the-best-disney-fighter/70346927007/

8. “Anaheim is showing Ron DeSantis how best to fight Mickey Mouse” San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Jun. 2023, https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/joe-mathews-disney-desantis-18166107.php

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