Disney Smacked Down by Fed. Judge in Lawfare Attack on DeSantis


() A federal judge on Wednesday smacked down Disney’s last-ditch lawfare attack on Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida, dashing its hopes to force the Republican leader to reinstate a longstanding sweetheart deal that gave the entertainment corporation unprecedented levels of autonomy.

“As stated by Gov. DeSantis when he signed HB9-B, the Corporate Kingdom is over,” said Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the DeSantis administration.

“The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone,” he added. “The federal court’s decision made it clear that Gov. DeSantis was correct: Disney is still just one of many corporations in the state, and they do not have a right to their own special government. In short—as long predicted, case dismissed.”

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor ruled in favor of the state in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed because of Disney’s opposition to the state’s anti-grooming law.

“In short, Disney lacks standing to sue the Governor or the Secretary, and its claims against the CFTOD (Central Florida Tourism Oversight District) Defendants fail on the merits because 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 wrote in his ruling.

Winsor cited Hubbard vs. Alabama Education Association, a 2015 case from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The precedent was an action constitutionally permissible—as it was for the state of Alabama to ban the practice of taking union dues from members’ paychecks—prevents a free-speech case being brought against a governmental entity.

In a statement released by the company, Disney officials said it intends to appeal the decision.

“This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here,” said the statement.

“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,” Disney claimed. “We are determined to press forward with our case.”

The dispute began when Disney opposed the Parental Rights in Education Act, a 2022 bill that prohibited teachers in kindergarten through fourth grade from teaching about gay and transgender issues.

Leftists rallying to support the woke company have insisted the law threatens to ban all LGBT instruction, deceptively dubbing it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

However, parental rights advocates maintain that the objective is to ensure that any such instruction is age appropriate, curricularly relevant, and thoroughly vetted, amid widespread concerns about classroom indoctrination and sexualization of children.

After Disney waded into the politically charged debate over the bill in an apparent bid to leverage their economic clout against the popular governor, the state’s GOP-led legislature disbanded the Reedy Creek Improvement District, established in 1967 as one of the incentives that brought Disney to Florida.

Lawmakers have since  replaced it with a body whose members were appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the state Senate.

The special designation allowed Disney to exercise almost complete autonomy over 25,000 acres of property. This included having power over development projects, roads and taxes, with the district providing fire and emergency medical services and contracting with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for police protection.

The governmental body largely controlled by Disney also had the power to borrow money for infrastructure improvements at municipal bond rates, saving the company millions.

Disney, according to an audit report, provided perks to Reedy Creek employees.

Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report.