Disney on Thursday filed a federal judge's ruling dismissing the company's lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and board members he appointed to manage the planning district Disney once operated in the state.
U.S. District Judge Alan Winsor on Wednesday tossed out Disney's lawsuit against DeSantis, losing the longtime planning district.
Disney's claims of injury as a result of appointing board members to a new district created by Florida lawmakers are “in the past,” Winsor said.
Disney has failed to show damages from specific actions the new board has taken or will take because of the governor's control, Winsor wrote.
“In fact, Disney has not claimed any specific injury from any board action,” Winsor said.
Winsor was nominated by President Donald Trump in 2018 and inaugurated in 2019.
A Disney spokesperson said in a statement following the verdict:
“This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here. If left unchallenged, it will set a dangerous precedent and give states license to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political views with which they disagree. We remain committed to moving forward with our case.”
A spokesperson for DeSantis said in a statement:
“As Governor DeSantis said when he signed HP 9-B, the corporate empire is over. Long gone are the days when Disney controlled its own government and was placed above the law. A federal court ruling made it clear that Governor DeSantis was right: Disney is still one of many corporations in the state, and they have their own special status. The government had no right. In short — as long predicted, the case was dismissed.”
Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the appeal on Thursday.
The lawsuit has its origins in the battle to pass a bill that DeSantis signed into law in the summer of 2022 that would limit discussion of gender and sexuality in schools. Dubbed the “don't tell gay” bill by opponents, the bill restricted the teaching of those subjects to fourth grade and above.
Former Disney CEO Bob Chabeck came out against the bill following strong opposition on social media from Disney employees.
In response, Florida state lawmakers began taking steps to eliminate Disney's so-called Reedy Creek Development District, a planning area that had had de facto control since the late 1960s. That restriction allowed the company to make changes to buildings and infrastructure in and around Walt Disney World.
Last February, the Legislature effectively stripped Disney of control over Reedy Creek, renamed it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and appointed five officials backed by DeSantis to serve on the newly created board.
Disney sued, claiming that DeSantis and the Legislature dissolved Reedy Creek in retaliation for the company's First Amendment rights. It was accused in a separate lawsuit that the new supervisory district failed to properly preserve records.
In December, the Associated Press reported 50 of 370 employees have left the Central Florida Tourism Authority since the acquisition, “leaving with them decades of institutional knowledge, as well as a reputation for well-run government.”
Correction (Jan. 31, 2024, 5:40 pm ET): An earlier version of this article misstated what grades were covered by the law that restricts discussion of gender and sexuality in schools. It restricts the teaching of those subjects up to class four and above, not third class. The judge has also wrongly specified the court in which he works. He is a US District Judge, not a state judge.