DeSantis is asking the federal decide to dismiss the Disney lawsuit
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign rally June 26, 2023 in Eagle Pass, Texas.
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Attorneys for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a motion to dismiss in federal court Monday DisneyHis lawsuit alleges political retaliation against the company. He and at least one other defendant are “immune” and Disney has no authority to sue them.
The attorneys also argued that Disney’s complaint — that DeSantis had targeted the company after it denounced the controversial state classroom bill that critics ridiculed as “Don’t Say Gay” — “contains no claim that for which a remedy can be granted”.
A Disney spokesperson did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the court filings.
The governor’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit comes as he has engaged in the protracted battle with Disney during his campaign in the Republican presidential primary. The fight between DeSantis, the top Republican behind former President Donald Trump, and Disney, one of Florida’s top employers, has been brewing for well over a year.
The 27-page motion to dismiss was filed by attorneys DeSantis and Meredith Ivey, who has been appointed secretary of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
“Disney has no authority to sue the governor and secretary, who are also immune from lawsuits,” they argued in a filing in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.
The entertainment giant’s lawsuit focuses on the special tax district that encompasses Walt Disney World in Florida and allowed the company to essentially self-govern its operations there for decades. After Disney criticized the Republican-backed classroom bill, DeSantis and his allies moved to have that special tax district dissolved.
The district, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, ultimately remained intact amid fears that its dissolution would saddle neighboring counties with debt. However, it was renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and its five-member board was replaced with DeSantis’ preferred nominees.
Disney entered into development deals before these new board members took office. The new board members accused the company of abuse of power and voted to terminate the contracts, prompting the company to sue.
The governor’s attorneys argued in Monday’s filing that “any alleged violations that may arise from the dispute over the district and the contracts” cannot be attributed to the state defendants and that the state defendants’ order would not provide Disney with relief .
Neither DeSantis nor Ivey enforced the legislation at issue in the lawsuit, the attorneys wrote, and Disney’s attempts to link them to those laws are “unconvincing.”
“Signing a law into law does not mean ‘enforcing’ a law,” they argued, adding that “Disney’s claims against the governor preclude his legislative immunity” and that his “accusations of retaliatory intent do not alter the analysis.”
Disney filed its First Amendment lawsuit in federal court in late April. Days later, the DeSantis-appointed board of directors counterclaimed in state court. Disney filed a motion to dismiss the state-level lawsuit in May.
The board responded in a June 19 motion, writing, “Disney’s motion is classic imagineering and asks the court to make us believe that reality is what Disney imagines.”