Why the judge ruled against Disney’s First Amendment claim, and what’s next in the fight

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Attorneys said they weren’t shocked by a judge’s decision to throw out Disney’s lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis and the Florida legislature Wednesday as the company battles to re-gain control of its special taxing district.

The lawsuit, commonly known as “Disney v. DeSantis,” was filed in the wake of the state’s takeover of the then-called Reedy Creek District, after company executives spoke in opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly referred to as “Don’t Say Gay.”


In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, who was appointed by President Trump, said Disney did not have standing to bring a lawsuit against the governor and didn’t have cause to bring it against the legislature.

Two attorneys who specialize in government law said they agreed with the judge’s ruling.

Read: Federal judge dismisses Disney’s lawsuit against DeSantis

In the case against the governor, the attorneys said Disney did not have much to go on in attacking the governor’s official role in the process.

While DeSantis has taken credit for the effort to roll back the company’s authority over the district, his official duties were limited to appointing the new state-backed board members.

Disney asked for injunctive relief to stop the appointment process after those board members had already agreed to serve, making their request moot, the attorneys said.

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The crux of the decision was to dismiss the case against other lawmakers. In this case, the judge adhered to precedent that allows lawmakers to pass whichever laws they choose – as long as they’re constitutional.

If a law passes that test, the attorneys said, it doesn’t matter what motivated lawmakers to pass it.

One of the attorneys said he sympathized with people concerned about government overreach or retaliation, but it would be difficult for Florida to go after any individual or small group of people without trampling over the constitution.

However, he said larger corporations should take note of this ruling.

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The second attorney said by rule, the trial court’s authority was limited in this matter, and he predicted as far back as last spring that the initial lawsuit would be thrown out.

However, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has more latitude to weigh Disney’s First Amendment claims, he said, and he still predicted Disney would have the upper hand when the company does appeal the ruling.

“The trial court ruling was never going to be the final say,” he said.

The other attorney disagreed and said Disney would be better off focusing on their separate but related case in state court, which deals with the company’s decision to strip the DeSantis-appointed board of its powers in the days leading up to the takeover.

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