Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has filed a Motion to Dismiss the federal lawsuit that The Walt Disney Company has filed against him.
In the motion, attorneys for DeSantis asks the Court to “dismiss the amended complaint, or at minimum, dismiss all claims against the State Defendants,” and provides three main arguments for dismissing the suit.
Its last-ditch power grab having been foiled under state law, Disney now turns to federal constitutional law to sue the Governor, the Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the CFTOD [Central Florida Tourism Oversight District] Board, and CFTOD’s Administrator. Its claims are meritless for many reasons, not least of which is that a special district cannot bind the State to transfer a portion of its sovereign authority to a private entity.
As grounds for dismissal, attorneys for DeSantis claim that The Court lacks jurisdiction over himself and the the Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and that while Disney has “grabbed headlines by suing the Governor,” the company has no basis for the lawsuit, as neither the Governor and the Secretary “enforce any of the laws at issue.” The motion also claims that DeSantis is entitled to “absolute legislative immunity.”
Disney Parks and Resorts originally filed to sue DeSantis and the CFTOD Board, citing “a targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The plaintiff further argues that this chronology of events “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
The CFTOD Board of Supervisors later voted to file their own countersuit against Disney, but through the state court rather than federal. You can read the latest about that here.
Read the full 27-page Motion to Dismiss below.
A History of the Disney-Ron DeSantis Feud
The Florida Governor and Walt Disney Company initially clashed over the corporation’s opposition to a much-debated and controversial Florida law regarding classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, alongside various other recent state laws and proposals in a similar vein.
Bob Chapek was Chief Executive Officer at the time and initially remained silent and passive on the issue — until massive internal criticisms from cast members, the LGBTQ+ community, and controversy over Disney’s practice of making hefty political contributions to campaigns and individuals allegedly against their own stated human principles came into focus.
In an apparent act of retribution over Chapek’s expression of dissent, the Governor moved forward with various verbal and legal assaults on Disney, including the dissolution of Reedy Creek and eventual transfer of power directly under his control. DeSantis argues he is attacking a rather vague perception of something he calls “woke politics,” invading the state. He further states he aims to put the people of Florida first through his actions:
Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long. It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence.
After heated exchanges and dramatic actions taken by the Governor alleged to be intentionally harmful punishments, The Walt Disney Company sued the Governor and his newly handpicked board not long after Bob Iger’s return as CEO, citing a “targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The plaintiff argues that this chronology of events “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
The Walt Disney Company is suing for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” Injunctive relief forces a party to act in a certain way or prevents them from doing various things. An “injunction” is sometimes known as a restraining order.
Disney regrets that it has come to this, but having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.
DeSantis insists he will double down on efforts to punish the resort through methods both in the Legislature and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. Notably, he promised to hike hotel taxes and institute tolls on the roads around Walt Disney World Resort property and suggested the idea of building a prison on land directly beside Disney property. Additionally, a bill was passed mandating state inspections of the resort’s monorails.
A recent poll showed Americans are mostly split about whether or not Disney and Governor DeSantis have behaved “appropriately,” but think the court should rule in Disney’s favor.