Ron DeSantis makes legal headway as Florida judge drubs Disney

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waves to supporters at an event in Las Vegas in November 2022. — AFP/File
Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waves to supporters at an event in Las Vegas in November 2022. — AFP/File

A Florida judge Friday denied a request from the Walt Disney Co to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an oversight district, potentially complicating the entertainment giant’s efforts to proceed with its own case against Governor Ron DeSantis amidst an ongoing yearlong dispute.

The judge’s ruling permits the oversight district to continue pursuing its lawsuit, which aims to invalidate “backroom deals” that were made between Disney and a previous district board earlier in the year. 

Should these deals be nullified, the district claims it would significantly weaken Disney’s federal case against Governor DeSantis.

A Disney spokesperson said the decision “has no bearing” on the federal lawsuit seeking to “vindicate Disney’s constitutional rights.”

“We are fully confident Disney will prevail in both the federal and state cases,” the spokesperson said in an email.

A spokesperson for the oversight district declined to comment.

The skirmish began last year after Disney criticised a Florida law banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity with younger children. 

DeSantis, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, has repeatedly attacked “woke Disney” in public remarks.

DeSantis rallied lawmakers to pass bills that reconstituted the district as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and transferred power over the board to the governor from Disney.

 Lawmakers also retroactively invalidated agreements that Disney reached with the prior board of what was then the Reedy Creek Improvement District on the eve of it being brought under DeSantis’s control.

Disney filed its lawsuit in April against the governor in federal court, claiming DeSantis “weaponised” the state government against the company for attacking the classroom gender discussion law.

Disney asked the federal court to prevent the state from enforcing the laws directed at the company and to reinstate the development agreements favourable to Disney that were struck with the prior district’s board.

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