DeSantis attorneys ask federal judge to dismiss Disney’s free speech lawsuit

Dec 12, 2023, 6:05 AM

FILE - Minnie and Mickey Mouse perform for guests during a musical show in the Magic Kingdom at Wal...

FILE - Minnie and Mickey Mouse perform for guests during a musical show in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Friday, July 14, 2023, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Disney on Tuesday, Nov. 14, released a study showing its economic impact in Florida at more than $40 billion, as it battles in courts with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his appointees over their takeover of the district that governs the entertainment company's massive resort in central Florida.(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys for Gov. Ron DeSantis are asking a federal judge on Tuesday to dismiss a free speech lawsuit filed by Disney after the Florida governor took over Walt Disney World’s governing district in retaliation for the company opposing a state law that banned classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades.

The planned hearing is the first time oral arguments are being made in federal court in Tallahassee over Disney’s claim that DeSantis used state powers to punish the entertainment giant in violation of the First Amendment. The governor’s attorneys are arguing that the case should be dismissed, claiming DeSantis is immune since he doesn’t enforce any of the laws that removed supervision of the government from Disney supporters.

Any decision U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor makes could determine who controls the governing district that performs municipal services such as planning, mosquito control and firefighting in the roughly 40 square miles (100 square kilometers) in central Florida that make up Disney World. Winsor was appointed to the bench by President Donald Trump in 2019.

Disney and DeSantis appointees also are battling in a state court lawsuit in Orlando over control of the district.

DeSantis has argued that the federal lawsuit should be dismissed since Disney lacks standing to file it. Neither the governor nor the secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, who is also named in the lawsuit, have the power to enforce the laws which were passed to revamp the Disney World government and shift control of the district’s board from Disney supporters to the governor’s appointees, according to DeSantis.

Also named in the federal lawsuit are the the district’s board members who DeSantis appointed earlier this year.

In asking the judge to deny DeSantis’ motion to dismiss, Disney has accused DeSantis and his appointees of using political institutions to punish disfavored viewpoints.

“That premise is not just legally unsupported, it is profoundly un-American,” Disney said in court papers.

The feud between DeSantis and Disney started last year after the entertainment giant publicly opposed the state’s so-called don’t say gay law. The law was championed by DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. In retaliation, DeSantis and Republican legislators earlier this year passed legislation which took over the district Disney had controlled for more than five decades and installed five board members loyal to the governor.

Since the takeover, more than 10% of the district’s 370-employees have left their jobs, with many saying in exit interviews that the district has been politicized and is now permeated by cronyism.

United States News

FILE - Bai Yun, the mother of newly named panda cub, Mei Sheng, gets a mouthful of bamboo during th...

Associated Press

China plans to send San Diego Zoo more pandas this year, reigniting its panda diplomacy

SAN DIEGO (AP) — China plans to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo, renewing its longstanding gesture of friendship toward the United States after nearly all the iconic bears on loan to U.S. zoos were returned as relations began to sour between the two nations. San Diego Zoo officials […]

31 minutes ago

FILE - Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the Federal Res...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve minutes: Officials worried that progress on inflation could stall in coming months

Federal Reserve officials acknowledged at their most recent meeting in January that there had been “significant progress” in reducing U.S. inflation.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Dozens of Idaho obstetricians have stopped practicing there since abortions were banned, study says

BOISE, Idaho. (AP) — More than 50 Idaho obstetricians have stopped practicing in the state since a near-total abortion ban took effect in August 2022, according to a newly released report. Data compiled by the Idaho Physician Well-Being Action Collaborative also shows that only two obstetricians moved to the state to practice in the last […]

3 hours ago

FILE - The logo for Boeing appears on a screen above a trading post on the floor of the New York St...

Associated Press

Boeing ousts head of 737 jetliner program, appoints new vice president of quality

Boeing says the head of its 737 jetliner program is leaving the company immediately, paving the way for the aircraft maker to appoint new leadership at the troubled division.

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Charges against alleged white supremacists are tossed by a California judge for the second time

LOS ANGELES (AP) — For the second time in five years, federal charges against alleged members of a violent white supremacist group accused of inciting violence at California political rallies were dismissed by a federal judge who found they were selectively prosecuted. Federal prosecutors said members of the Rise Above Movement conspired to riot by […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

A Los Angeles woman was arrested in Russia on charges of treason. Here’s what we know

Russia’s main domestic intelligence agency has arrested a woman with dual U.S. and Russian citizenship on charges of treason, accusing her of collecting money for the Ukrainian military. The Federal Security Service said in a statement early Tuesday that the Los Angeles resident was arrested in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, about 1,100 miles […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

DeSantis attorneys ask federal judge to dismiss Disney’s free speech lawsuit