Attorneys for The Walt Disney Co. and Ron DeSantis are proposing very different timelines for the start of a federal trial over the company’s claim of retaliation by the Florida governor.
Disney proposed a timeline with a trial to start on July 15 of next year. DeSantis’ attorneys, along with those of other defendants in the case, want it put off to Aug. 4, 2025, after next year’s presidential election, according to a court filing. DeSantis launched his White House bid last month.
Disney sued the Florida governor in April, arguing that DeSantis violated the company’s First Amendment rights when he moved to strip the company of control of a 55-year-old special district that covers Walt Disney World. The company claims that it was an act of retaliation for its opposition to a parental rights law, known as “don’t say gay” by detractors, that was championed and signed by the governor.
Ron DeSantis Seeks Dismissal Of Disney Lawsuit, Claims Immunity From Litigation
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit was the secretary of the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, along with the board members that DeSantis selected to serve on the newly renamed special district, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
DeSantis and the other defendants also want the discovery process in the case — one that will include extensive collection of documents and depositions — to be put on hold until a judge rules on his motion to dismiss to case, as well as a motion filed by the district board.
“The scope of discovery will be dictated by the claims that remain following the disposition of those motions, if any,” the defendants’ attorneys wrote.
Disney argued that staying discovery “will cause substantial harm.”
The company’s attorneys wrote, “The gravamen of Plaintiff’s complaint is that Defendants have violated Plaintiff’s fundamental rights by inflicting ongoing retaliation for protected speech and impairing contracts that remain impaired.”
In the motion to dismiss, DeSantis’ attorneys claimed that he was immune from litigation, given that “neither the Governor nor the Secretary [of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity] enforce any of the laws at issue, so Disney lacks standing to sue them.” DeSantis’ attorneys cited legislative immunity.
The governor’s attorneys also called the Disney lawsuit “meritless for many reasons,” including that “a special district cannot bind the State to transfer a portion of its sovereign authority to a private entity.”
In the most recent filing, Disney offered a bit of a response to the motions to dismiss, arguing that they were “unlikely to be granted.” The company’s legal team wrote that defendants “ignore precedent establishing that a court may consider a legislature’s retaliatory motive in adjudicating a challenge to a targeted act of retaliation.” The company also argued that DeSantis has “an instrumental role” in the appointment and ongoing supervision of” the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which Disney referred to as “an unlawfully constituted government entity.”
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