Tuesday 27 June 2023

DeSantis Asks Federal Judge To Dismiss Disney’s Lawsuit, Says Company ‘Lacks Standing’ To Sue

 Florida Governor and U.S. presidential candidate Ron DeSantis filed a motion on Monday asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit Walt Disney Co. filed against him, claiming the company does not have standing to sue him. 

DeSantis, who cited several precedents including a 2023 case the city of Miami filed against him, claims he and another state official, who is also a defendant, are “immune from suit” in his request for a Florida judge to dismiss the suit Disney filed against him in late April.

The company accused DeSantis of a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” after Florida state lawmakers passed a bill to curb many of Disney’s benefits from its special tax district, Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). The district has allowed Disney to self-govern the land containing tourist magnet Walt Disney World. 

Disney argued that the state’s move to strip the company’s special tax status was in response to the company’s criticism of the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, known by its critics by its misnomer — the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, to which DeSantis subsequently responded by calling Disney a “woke corporation.” 

While the district was not completely disbanded, the state government renamed the district to “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District” (CFTOD) and replaced its board with the governor’s allies. Disney tried to override the new board’s jurisdiction by striking agreements with the old RCID leadership, just before the new CFTOD board took over.

The new CFTOD board declared the company’s agreements with RCID leadership void, suing Disney for failing to comply, while DeSantis subsequently signed a bill legally voiding them at the state level. 

The governor’s motion also argues that “any alleged injuries” from the legislation cannot be “traceable to the State Defendants, and enjoining the State Defendants would not provide Disney relief,” since the governor only signed the legislation. 

“When the governor signs a bill, he acts in a legislative, not executive, capacity,” the motion reads, citing an Eleventh Circuit ruling that a plaintiff cannot “challenge a law by suing the legislators who enacted it instead of the officials who execute it.”

The motion also notes that the governor has no control over the new CFTOD board: “His sole connection to CFTOD is his authority to appoint CFTOD’s Board,” the motion reads.  

A spokesperson for Disney had no immediate comment, according to The Wall Street Journal

The Journal also noted that the lawsuit will be overseen by Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, who previously blocked two lawsuits that tried to stop the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

Disney has until late July to file a motion in response.

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