A Florida judge should rule without trial against Disney as the company fights Gov. Ron DeSantis’ takeover of a board that oversees Walt Disney World, the Republican governor’s appointees said Tuesday in court.
Members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District asked the state judge in Orlando for a summary judgment that would rule in their favor on five of the nine counts in their case.
The case is one of two lawsuits stemming from the takeover, which was retaliation for Disney’s public opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation championed by DeSantis and Republican lawmakers. In the other lawsuit, in federal court in Tallahassee, Disney says DeSantis violated the company’s free speech rights.
DeSantis isn’t a party in the state court case in which his appointees accuse Disney of wrongly stripping them of powers over design and construction at Disney World when the company made agreements with Disney-friendly predecessors. The DeSantis appointees argued that the board of Disney supporters didn’t give proper notice, lacked authority and unlawfully delegated government authority to a private entity.
The judge in the state case last month refused Disney’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
The fight between DeSantis and Disney began last year after the company, facing significant pressure internally and externally, publicly opposed a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, a policy critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”
As punishment, DeSantis took over the district through legislation passed by Florida lawmakers and appointed a new board of supervisors to oversee municipal services for the sprawling theme parks and hotels. But the new supervisors’ authority was limited by the company’s agreements with predecessors.
In response, DeSantis and Florida lawmakers passed legislation that repealed those agreements.
The governor has touted his yearlong feud with Disney in his run for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, often accusing the entertainment giant of being too “woke.” Disney has accused the governor of violating its First Amendment rights.
In an interview with CNBC on Monday, DeSantis urged Disney to drop the company’s lawsuit, saying that he and his allies have moved on from the feud with the company.
“They’re suing the state of Florida. They’re going to lose that lawsuit,” DeSantis said on CNBC’s “Last Call.”
Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP
Mike Schneider, The Associated Press