Disney asks judge to dismiss DeSantis-appointed board’s lawsuit in latest tit-for-tat

May 16, 2023, 12:32 PM | Updated: 1:40 pm

FILE - A statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse stands in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magi...

FILE - A statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse stands in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Jan. 9, 2019. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ oversight board of Disney World has voted to claw back authority over the company’s theme park properties. The vote Wednesday, April 26, 2023, by the governor’s appointees voids a last-minute deal that placed control of theme park design and construction decisions Disney’s hands. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Disney on Tuesday asked a state judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a governing board appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to oversee Disney World, claiming the company has been the victim of the “weaponizing” powers of government aimed at punishing it for opposing a law dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics.

Disney’s motion to dismiss filed in state court in Orlando was the latest twist in legal battles being played out in federal and state courts among the entertainment giant, DeSantis and the DeSantis-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The fight is over who controls the special governing district which decides what gets built at Disney World and runs the municipal-like services on the 25,000 acres that make up the theme park resort.

“Just over a year ago, Disney expressed a political view that Governor DeSantis did not like. In response, the Governor unleashed a campaign of retaliation, weaponizing the power of government to punish Disney for its protected speech,” Disney said in the motion.

The lawsuit Disney is seeking to dismiss was filed by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District earlier this month in Orange County, Florida. It seeks to void agreements Disney made with previous board members made up of Disney supporters before the new DeSantis-appointed board members held their first meeting.

The agreements gave design and construction authority to the company, which the DeSantis-appointed supervisors said stripped them of power. The DeSantis-appointed board’s lawsuit said the agreements “reek of a backroom deal,” weren’t properly noticed and that the Disney supporters unlawfully delegated governmental authority to a private entity.

In the company’s motion Tuesday, Disney defended the deals. When “faced with a newly hostile state administration,” Disney executed the deals to protect its investments in central Florida, including billions of dollars in new projects and thousands of jobs, the company said.

Last month, Disney filed a First Amendment lawsuit against DeSantis and the DeSantis-appointed board in federal court, asking a federal judge to void the governor’s takeover of the theme park district, as well as the oversight board’s actions, on the grounds that they were violations of company’s free speech rights.

Disney and DeSantis have been engaged in a tug-of-war for more than a year that has engulfed the GOP governor in criticism as he prepares to launch an expected presidential bid in the coming weeks.

The feud started last year after Disney, in the face of significant pressure, publicly opposed a state law that bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, a policy critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”

As punishment, DeSantis took over Disney World’s self-governing district through legislation passed by Florida lawmakers and appointed a new board of supervisors. Before the new board came in, the company signed the agreements with the old board, stripping the new supervisors of design and construction authority.

In response, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed legislation allowing the DeSantis-appointed board to repeal the Disney agreements and made the theme park resort’s monorail system subject to state inspection when it previously had been done in-house.

The new legislation repealing the Disney agreements makes the state court lawsuit moot, and litigation filed first in federal court takes priority over subsequent litigation in state court if both cases are dealing with similar issues and parties, under Florida law, Disney said in Tuesday’s motion arguing for the state lawsuit to be dismissed.

The creation of Disney’s self-governing district by the Florida Legislature was instrumental in the company’s decision in the 1960s to build near Orlando. The company had told the state at the time that it planned to build a futuristic city that would include a transit system and urban planning innovations, so the company needed autonomy in building and deciding how to use the land. The futuristic city never materialized and instead morphed into a second theme park that opened in 1982.

___

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP

Lifestyle

File - The Apple Vision Pro headset is displayed in a showroom on the Apple campus after it's unvei...

Associated Press

Apple’s Vision Pro goggles unleash a mixed reality that could lead to more innovation and isolation

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Reporters are a skeptical bunch, so it was unusual to hear so many of them raving about their firsthand experience with Apple’s next Big Thing: the high-priced headset called Vision Pro, a device infused with totally virtual reality as well as augmented reality that projects digital images on top of real-world […]

22 hours ago

Associated Press

Founder, ex-executive of edgy sexual wellness company OneTaste charged with forced labor conspiracy

NEW YORK (AP) — Two former executives of a company known for offering “orgasmic meditation” sessions have been charged with using sex, psychological abuse and economic exploitation to coerce work from people while taking over their lives, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. The case follows years of scrutiny and a recent Netflix documentary on the business, […]

22 hours ago

This photo released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, shows,...

Associated Press

Recalled pillows linked to 10 infant deaths still being sold on Facebook Marketplace, US agency says

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal safety regulators are urging consumers to stop using baby pillows that have been linked to 10 infant deaths but are still being sold on Facebook Marketplace, despite being recalled two years ago. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday that Boppy Newborn Loungers are no longer legally for sale but […]

22 hours ago

Prince Harry leaves the High Court after giving evidence in London, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. Prince H...

Associated Press

Prince Harry’s drug use cited in push to release visa records by conservative US group

WASHINGTON (AP) — The past drug use that Prince Harry detailed in his explosive memoir should spark the release of his immigration paperwork, a conservative American think tank argued in a Washington court Tuesday as they appealed to a judge for a quicker response a records request the U.S. government has so far deemed private. […]

22 hours ago

This June 3, 2023, image provided by Jessica Damiano shows farm-fresh strawberries and rhubarb for ...

Associated Press

June is rhubarb picking time in the garden, so pucker up

Years ago, when my now-grown daughter Justine was a toddler, we visited a U-pick farm where she plucked plump, ripe strawberries from a field of sprawling plants. Some made it into the basket on that sunny June day; others went directly into her mouth. That’s when she learned that June is for strawberries. It’s for […]

22 hours ago

Last seasons plant stalks are seen at Seth Jacobs' marijuana planting field at his Slack Hollow far...

Associated Press

Slow start to New York’s legal pot market leaves farmers holding the bag

ARGYLE, N.Y. (AP) — Seth Jacobs has about 100 bins packed with marijuana flower sitting in storage at his upstate New York farm. And that’s a problem. There aren’t enough places to sell it. The 700 pounds (318 kilograms) of pungent flower was harvested last year as part of New York’s first crop of legally […]

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

Disney asks judge to dismiss DeSantis-appointed board’s lawsuit in latest tit-for-tat