Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has scored a victory in his battle with Disney, as a federal judge has dismissed the media company’s First Amendment lawsuit filed against him last April.
The lawsuit was dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning that Disney is free to submit another lawsuit. A spokesperson for the company signaled in a statement that it will.
“This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here,” the statement read. “If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with. We are determined to press forward with our case.”
The lawsuit was filed after DeSantis threw his support behind a law to repeal the Reedy Creek Improvement Act, a Florida state law passed in 1967 that gave Disney control over the special district that covers its theme parks in Orlando. DeSantis now has the power to appoint the board members that govern the district.
DeSantis, who suspended his 2024 presidential campaign earlier this month, has waged a public war against Disney for its opposition to Florida’s parental rights bill, known by detractors as the “don’t say gay” law, which Disney spoke out against after pressure from employees and others in the entertainment industry.
In its lawsuit, Disney accused DeSantis of “constitutional mutiny” by retaliating against the company for its opposition to the law. But District Judge Allen Winsor, a Federalist Society member and Trump appointee, wrote in his dismissal ruling that “when a statute is facially constitutional, a plaintiff cannot bring a free-speech challenge by claiming that the lawmakers who passed it acted with a constitutionally impermissible purpose.”
Winsor also said that Disney failed to “allege any specific injury” to its finances caused by DeSantis’ appointed board members now controlling the theme park district.
“Because Disney seeks injunctive relief, it must allege an imminent future injury, and it has not alleged facts showing that any imminent future appointments will contribute to its harm,” the ruling said.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.
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