OAN’s Noah Herring
3:52 PM – Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asked a federal judge on Monday to dismiss the lawsuit that was filed against him by Walt Disney Co. in their battle over the company’s special tax status in the state of Florida.
The motion to Judge Allen Winsor, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, claims that DeSantis has immunity under the law and cannot be held responsible for the alleged harm that Disney is suing for.
The lawsuit, brought forth by Disney, accused DeSantis and his office of engaging in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” that was “orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.”
The case was originally assigned to Mark Walker, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama. However, he recused himself from the case citing his reason being that a distant relative of his has stock in the company.
DeSantis and Disney have been in conflict since 2022, when the company publicly stood against the governor’s bill. In response, DeSantis looked to disband Reedy Creek, the special tax district in the Orlando area that allowed the company to “self-govern” its operations there.
DeSantis replaced the board overseeing the district with his own appointees.
The motion that was filed on Monday called Disney’s special tax district a “sweetheart deal.” The state argued that DeSantis and Meredith Ivey, secretary for Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, technically do not enforce the changes to Disney’s district since it is the job of the board that he appointed.
“Disney lacks standing to sue the Governor and Secretary, who are also immune from suit,” they argued in the filing.
“Signing a law is not ‘enforcing’ a law,” they continued, adding that “Disney’s claims against the Governor run square into his legislative immunity” and its “allegations of retaliatory intent do not change the analysis.”
Disney originally filed its First Amendment lawsuit in federal court in late April. Just a few days later, the DeSantis-appointed board counter-sued in state court. Disney then filed a bid in May to dismiss that state-level suit.
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