“There will be no compromise,” Governor Ron DeSantis said about the legal battle with Disney during his Presidential campaign kickoff speech in Iowa last night.
We run the state of Florida. They do not run the state of Florida. We stand for the protection of our children. We will fight those who seek to rob them of their innocence and on that there will be no compromise.
This is the latest escalation in an ongoing feud between The Walt Disney Company and the Governor, that began as a mutually strained relationship and has now descended into an outright legal battle at both the state and federal level.
While most of the speech emphasized his new campaign for the 2024 Presidential election and general goals, DeSantis made it clear he rejects criticisms from some Republican colleagues who believe this particular feud is a non-essential liability that should be de-escalated.
Leadership is not about entertaining. . . . It is about results.
Lawsuit on Hold
In the most recent filing for the ongoing lawsuit between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Court has ruled no actions regarding the case or other recent filings will be addressed or acted upon until the pending motion by DeSantis to disqualify Judge Mark Walker is resolved.
This Notice acknowledges receipt of the parties’ ‘Joint Stipulation Regarding
Briefing Schedule and Service of Process,’ ECF No. 34, in which Defendants
request (and Plaintiffs do not oppose) a proposed briefing schedule for forthcoming
motions to dismiss. This Court will take no action, scheduling or otherwise, in this
case until it rules on the pending motion for disqualification.
Yesterday, the defendants (DeSantis and the CFTOD leaders) stated their intention to seek a dismissal of the entire case, and mutually agreed with Disney on dates and deadlines for this process.
All Defendants intend to file motions to dismiss the amended complaint.
Defendants request, and Plaintiff does not oppose, that the Court set the
following briefing schedule for the motions to dismiss:
• Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss: Due 6/26/23
• Plaintiff’s Responses: Due 7/26/23
• Defendants’ Replies: Due 8/9/23
Under this order, everything is on hold until the decision to keep or replace the current judge is made. A different arbiter, Martin Fitzpatrick, already recused himself of his own volition late last month, citing a “third degree” relation to someone employed by one of the parties.
According to Reuters, Governor DeSantis wants Mark Walker off the case because he questions the judge’s impartiality.
DeSantis’ lawyers argued on Friday that the judge overseeing that case demonstrated potential partiality while handling separate cases in which the judge mentioned Disney as an example of state retaliation.
Outside of this federal proceeding, the defendants are also counter-suing Disney in the Florida courts. Disney has already sought to have that case dismissed. The Board’s 188-page complaint names the Board itself as plaintiff against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. District leaders appointed by the Governor are asking the court to render Disney’s development agreement with the former Reedy Creek Improvement District as unenforceable, null, and void. They also ask the same be done of the restrictive covenants, which notably set the benchmark for expiry at 21 years after the death of the last living descendant of King Charles III, still living as of the date of the document.
A History of the Disney-DeSantis Feud
The Florida Governor and Walt Disney Company initially clashed over the corporation’s opposition to a much-debated and controversial Florida law regarding classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, alongside various other recent state laws and proposals in a similar vein.
Bob Chapek was Chief Executive Officer at the time and initially remained silent and passive on the issue — until massive internal criticisms from cast members, the LGBTQ+ community, and controversy over Disney’s practice of making hefty political contributions to campaigns and individuals allegedly against their own stated human principles came into focus.
In an apparent act of retribution over Chapek’s expression of dissent, the Governor moved forward with various verbal and legal assaults on Disney, including the dissolution of Reedy Creek and eventual transfer of power directly under his control. DeSantis argues he is attacking a rather vague perception of something he calls “woke politics,” invading the state. He further states he aims to put the people of Florida first through his actions:
Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long. It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence.
After heated exchanges and dramatic actions taken by the Governor alleged to be intentionally harmful punishments, The Walt Disney Company sued the Governor and his newly handpicked board not long after Bob Iger’s return as CEO, citing a “targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The plaintiff argues that this chronology of events “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
The Walt Disney Company is suing for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” Injunctive relief forces a party to act in a certain way or prevents them from doing various things. An “injunction” is sometimes known as a restraining order.
Disney regrets that it has come to this, but having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.
DeSantis insists he will double down on efforts to punish the resort through methods both in the Legislature and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. Notably, he promised to hike hotel taxes and institute tolls on the roads around Walt Disney World Resort property and suggested the idea of building a prison on land directly beside Disney property. Additionally, a bill was passed mandating state inspections of the resort’s monorails.
There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control, but rest assured, you know, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s more to come in that regard.
A recent poll showed Americans are mostly split about whether or not Disney and Governor DeSantis have behaved “appropriately,” but think the court should rule in Disney’s favor.