Judge Rules Against Disney in Ron DeSantis Lawsuit, Huge Setback

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Governor Ron DeSantis surrounded by fireworks as Disney Magic Kingdom

Credit: Inside the Magic

The Walt Disney Company is facing a huge problem in its federal court case against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and it is because of its own lawyers.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis smiling while looking at the Cinderella Castle inside the Magic Kingdom at Disney World.
Credit: Inside The Magic

Currently, Disney and DeSantis are locked into multiple overlapping lawsuits in both federal and state court, an unusual situation for the chief executive of a state and the company that acts as its chief economic powerhouse. In recent months, the advantage has been distinctly going to Walt Disney World, with DeSantis and his Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board of directors consistently back on their heels.

Now, Disney took a big blow as a judge ruled against the House of Mouse. The governor must be feeling pretty pleased right now.

Disney and Reedy Creek

The feud between Disney and DeSantis originally began when then-CEO Bob Chapek took a public stance against the Parental Rights in Education Act, informally known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The act (which forbids discussion of sexuality and gender orientation in some classrooms in Florida) was eventually signed into law by the governor, but it seems that he bears a grudge.

Ron DeSantis shakes his finger in front of Disney Halloween decorations at Magic Kingdom.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Related: DeSantis Claims Florida Tourists Come To See Him, Not Disney

Allegedly in retaliation to Disney’s public opinion against his law (not to mention the company cutting off political donations in Florida), DeSantis dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special tax area where the Walt Disney World Resort is located.

Reedy Creek was replaced by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which swiftly began raising fees on taxpayers, getting mired in ethics controversies, and losing dozens of employees disgruntled by the alleged “incompetence” of the new board of directors.

Disney vs DeSantis

The dissolution of Reedy Creek kicked off a series of lawsuits between Disney and both DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board, which is largely perceived as a proxy for the governor himself.

Upset DeSantis with Mickey ears in front of a castle
Credit: Inside The Magic

On one side, the board of directors is suing Disney over contracts that the House of Mouse signed just before Reedy Creek was shut down, which essentially allow the company to retain much of its power. The board claims that the contracts should be “null and void” and is asking a judge to toss them out, while Walt Disney World insists they are on the level and that the board basically just didn’t do its due diligence and pay attention.

However, Disney also filed a federal lawsuit against Governor DeSantis directly, accusing him of violating its First Amendment rights to be protected against government retaliation for expressing opinions like, say, opposing a controversial law about schools.

Judge Rules Against Disney

On Friday, Disney asked U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to amend its lawsuit against Disney to focus solely on the First Amendment aspect of the case and leave the Reedy Creek matter entirely to the state courts (per ClickOrlando). Basically, Disney wanted to hedge its bets by asking the judge to rule only on one of the matters at stake and ignore the rest.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis smiling with sunglasses on with a theme park in the background.
Credit: Inside The Magic

 

Related: DeSantis Board Accused of Inside-Dealing After Lawyer Given $500 per Hour Pay

Unfortunately for Disney, Judge Winsor swiftly shot that request down, on the grounds that the company itself had not followed proper procedure. According to the judge, such a request requires Disney to confer with DeSantis’ legal terms, which the lawyers had failed to do. It can be inferred there must be some agreement from the opposition to narrow the case down, which Disney likely wanted to avoid.

The judge has said that Disney can make the request again, but it is going to have to check in with the lawyers trying to defeat them to make it happen. While we’re not legal experts, it seems unlikely that DeSantis is just going to hand Mickey Mouse that win.

Do you think that Disney will win its First Amendment case? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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