Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida recently called on Disney to drop its lawsuits against him. The Governor said he had moved on and Disney should as well. However, Disney did just the opposite. The entertainment company sharpened the focus of its lawsuits at both the state and federal level. Along with sharpening the focus of its lawsuits, it also threatened to open new lawsuits in order to gain access to public records.
This most recent development comes as The Walt Disney Company and Florida, under Governor DeSantis’ leadership continue to spar in court. This began over a year ago when Disney came out against legislation that Governor DeSantis endorsed and then signed into law. This led to Governor DeSantis leading efforts to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which encompasses most of Walt Disney World Resort. The district was created to help empower Disney to move forward with building Walt Disney World Resort over fifty years ago. Ultimately, Governor DeSantis did see to the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and then replaced it with the Central Florida Tourism Overight District. The new district had a board of directors that was hand picked by Governor DeSantis.
Before the new government was put into place by Governor DeSantis and his allies, Disney signed a development agreement to protect its interests moving forward in the development of the Walt Disney World Resort. This was discovered after the new board had been in place for about a month. At which point, the district leadership and Florida state leadership worked to cancel the contracts. This included even signing a new bill into law that allowed the district to nullify the development agreement. At this point, Disney sued Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders saying that the Governor and company had violated the company’s First Ammendment rights, among other things. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District then sued Disney in state court over the issue of the development agreement. Disney recently argued at the state level that the second lawsuit should be dismissed as the issue would be decided in the federal case. The judge at the state level, Margaret Schreiber, denied this motion to dismiss.
As Governor DeSantis becomes increasingly focused on running for President of the United States, Disney continues to focus on protecting its interests in Florida. In August on CNBC, DeSantis tried to move things forward and away from the issue. “They’re going to lose,” he said. “Let’s move forward.” This interview did not dissuade Disney from moving away from these lawsuits. Instead, Disney is sharpening its focus.
On Friday, The Walt Disney Company filed a motion to make an ammendment to its lawsuit in the federal court system. This case is being heard by Judge Allen Winsor in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee. If approved, the ammendment would remove the parts of the lawsuit that are specifically related to the validity of the development contracts. This is what is also covered in the state lawsuit. It would continue to focus on the main complaint that Governor DeSantis and his allies violated the First Amendment rights of The Walt Disney Company with “a targeted campaign of government retaliation.”
In Disney’s motion, the company said it was seeking to amend the federal complaint “in order to spare the inefficiency of litigating contract validity simultaneously in two forums.”
Initially, Judge Winsor denied Disney’s motion to amend the complaint. Judge Winsor cited a procedural flat which require the company to first confer with the defendants about an amendment. If there is an objection, then Disney may refile the motion. If there is no objection, a motion would be unnecessary for the amendment.
Along with moving to sharpen the focus of its federal lawsuit, Disney also disclosed that Governor DeSantis and six state entities had not complied with public records requests that were made back in May. These public record requests were made by Disney lawyers as a part of the discovery process for the lawsuit. Disney sent letters to the governor’s office and other state entitites warning them that they would be sued under Florida’s public records act if the requested materials weren’t made available by September 6, 2023.
“It has now been nearly four months since our request, and we have yet to receive any of the requested records or any substantive response asserting valid exemptions,” Adam Losey, an Orlando lawyer working for Disney, wrote in the letters.
Disney requested “all documents and communications, including but not limited to text messages, Signal messages and WhatsApp messages on any devices” with the keywords “Disney” or “mouse,” among many others, the letter said. Governor DeSantis’ office has not commented on these updates.
At this point, if things continue forward, the federal case will be heard next Summer around the time of the Republican National Convention. Governor DeSantis has requested that the trial not be heard until August 4, 2025. This would be after the election had been completed.
Daps Magic will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.