The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press made a filing in support of Disney in their lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the CFTOD Board.
Reporters Committee Motion
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is a non-profit based in Washington D.C. It provides legal assistance to journalists in support of First Amendment rights.
Their amicus curiae brief — a type of filing from parties who are not involved in the case but provide information and expertise — cites several instances of the government attempting to silence the press, comparing these cases to the situation with Disney and DeSantis.
After Disney publicly denounced Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, DeSantis and the legislature took several retaliatory actions, leading to taking over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, renaming it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and replacing the Board with DeSantis appointees. The Reporters Committee cites Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in stating:
Disney’s speech in opposition to that law falls squarely within the First Amendment’s protections. As the Supreme Court has explained, “[s]peech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people. The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it.”
They add that “allowing the State of Florida’s actions here to escape constitutional scrutiny would embolden public officials to retaliate against speakers—including journalists and news media organizations—for perceived criticism or unfair statements.”
The Reporters Committee is asking Judge Allen C. Winsor to deny Governor DeSantis’ motion to dismiss the case.
The Walt Disney Company is suing for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” They stated in the initial lawsuit:
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.
CFTOD Suing Disney
Meanwhile, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board is countersuing Disney in state court. Disney failed to have the CFTOD Board’s lawsuit dismissed for being moot. Judge Margaret H. Schreiber stated a suit is only moot “when the controversy has been so fully resolved that a judicial determination can have no actual effect.”
In their suit, the Board asks the state court to render Disney’s development agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District as unenforceable, null, and void. They also ask the same to be done of the restrictive covenants.
It was the Board’s attempt to declare the development agreement null and void that led to Disney’s lawsuit.
The Board had a closed session meeting with their attorneys to discuss ongoing litigation at the end of the public July 26 Board meeting.