Disney Lawsuit Against Gov. DeSantis and New District Dismissed

In a major blow to Disney, Judge Allen Winsor has dismissed the company’s case against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD).

UPDATE – 6:00 p.m. ET:

  • The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District released the following statements in response to the federal court ruling on Disney’s case against the district:
    • Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Chairman Martin Garcia: “I’m delighted that this lawsuit, which was nothing more than a distraction, is now behind us. Our board and the district will now continue to make the appropriate changes to operate and function as an independent government agency to promote transparency and accountability while bringing more prosperity to more people in Florida.”
    • Charles J. Cooper, Chairman of Cooper & Kirk: “We are pleased that the district court applied clear precedent to reject Disney’s claim that it, rather Florida’s Legislature and her Governor, gets to choose the officials who will serve on its local government body. Disney may own the land in the district, but it does not own the government.”

Previously – 2:20 p.m. ET:

  • Disney filed the case against the CFTOD alleging retaliation and infringement of their First Amendment rights, stemming back to the creation of the CFTOD – replacing the Reedy Creek Improvement District which had governed the land containing the Walt Disney World Resort since its inception.
  • This all came to pass following Disney’s criticism of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which Disney believes DeSantis retaliated against.
  • Judge Allen Winsor has now dismissed the case, which has been going through the legal system for almost a year.
  • The claims have been dismissed on the merits for “failure to state a claim.”
  • The judge stated in the court filing that “Disney lacks standing to sue the Governor or the Secretary, and its claims against the CFTOD Defendants fail on the merits because ‘when a statute is facially constitutional, a plaintiff cannot bring a free-speech challenge by claiming that the lawmakers who passed it acted with a constitutionally impermissible purpose.’”
  • He goes on to say “Disney also argues that even if the laws do not explicitly target it, they come close enough to warrant a Hubbard [a referenced court case] exception. But there is no ‘close enough’ exception. A law either explicitly singles out a specific group or it does not, and the laws here do not.”
  • “The laws are directed at a special development district in which Disney operates. But as Disney acknowledges, it is not the district’s only landowner, and other landowners within the district are affected by the same laws.”
  • Concluding, Judge Winsor writes, “Plaintiff’s claims against the Governor and the Department Secretary are dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff’s claims against the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board members are dismissed on the merits for failure to state a claim.”
  • In response to the ruling, a Disney spokesperson said “This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here. If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with. We are determined to press forward with our case.”
  • You can read the full order granting motions to dismiss here.