Ron DeSantis, a contender for president of the United States and governor of Florida, filed a request this week asking a federal judge to throw out a case Walt Disney Co. brought against him on the grounds that it lacks the legal authority to do so.
In his appeal for a Florida judge to throw out the lawsuit Disney brought against him around the end of April, DeSantis referenced a number of precedents, which includes a 2023 lawsuit the city of Miami brought against him, and claimed he along with another state official, who also happens to be a defendant, are “immune from suit”
After Florida state legislators enacted a bill to limit many of Disney’s perks concerning its special tax district, the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), the business accused DeSantis of a “targeted strategy involving government retaliation.” The district has let Disney World, a popular tourist destination, to self-govern its territory.
In reaction to Disney’s criticism against the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its detractors, DeSantis reacted by labeling Disney a “woke corporation.” Disney claimed that the state’s decision to revoke the company’s special tax status was a result of Disney’s criticism of the legislation.
The district was not entirely abolished, but the state government changed its name to what is now the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District” (CFTOD) and appointed the governor’s associates to its board to serve instead. Just prior to the new CFTOD board taking office, Disney attempted to circumvent its authority by reaching deals with the previous RCID administration.
While DeSantis later signed a measure making the company’s agreements with RCID leadership legally illegal at the state level, the new CFTOD board deemed the arrangements void and sued Disney for noncompliance.
Since the governor only signed the law, the governor’s petition further claims that “any alleged injuries” resulting from the legislation can’t be “traceable back to the State Defendants, and encouraging the State Defendants wouldn’t give Disney relief.”
A plaintiff can’t “challenge a statute by suing the lawmakers who passed it instead of the officials who execute it,” according to the motion, which cites an Eleventh Circuit decision. Instead, the plaintiff must sue the officials who carry out the legislation.
The petition also states that the governor does not have any influence over the newly appointed CFTOD board: “His sole link to CFTOD is his power to appoint CFTOD’s Board,” the motion says.
The Journal also highlighted that the case would be presided over by U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, who was chosen by Trump and previously dismissed two lawsuits that sought to overturn the “Don’t Say Gay” rule.
Disney has until the end of July to submit a motion in opposition.