DeSantis Asks Trump-Appointed Judge to Dismiss Disney Lawsuit


  • DeSantis asked a federal judge to dismiss Disney’s lawsuit against him, claiming he has immunity.
  • The lawyers for the Florida governor also said Disney had no business filing in federal court.
  • The judge assigned to the case is a Trump appointee.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida filed a motion in federal court Monday evening asking a judge to dismiss Walt Disney World’s lawsuit against him. 

The motion to Judge Allen Winsor — who was appointed by former President Donald Trump — claims DeSantis has legislative immunity, which shields “both governors’ and legislators’ actions in the proposal, formulation, and passage of legislation.”

Disney’s lawsuit accuses DeSantis and his office of engaging in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” against Disney that was “orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.”

Attorneys for the governor said in the 27-page motion that the federal district Disney filed the lawsuit in lacks jurisdiction. Rather than in state court, it filed the lawsuit in the US District Court in the Northern District of Florida, which is located in Tallahassee.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider. 

The case was initially assigned to Mark Walker, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama and previously blocked a DeSantis-backed law that restricted how workplaces instituted diversity, equity, and inclusion training. He recused himself from the case, saying a distant relative had Disney stock. 

In an April interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph, DeSantis accused Disney of “forum shopping” for a judge “who rules against us all the time” because the entertainment company didn’t file its lawsuit in state court.

Now, the case is before Winsor, who was solicitor general of Florida under former state Attorney General Pam Bondi, one of Trump’s lawyers during his first impeachment trial. 

DeSantis is Trump’s top rival for the 2024 Republican nomination for president, though the former president remains a distant frontrunner. 

The feud between the governor and Disney started in 2021, after Disney said it would work to repeal a law that severely limits how and when LGBTQ+ topics were taught in public schools. 

Disney called the bill “Don’t Say Gay” in press releases.

The governor acted with the legislature to try to take away special privileges it had in Florida for decades — ones that other theme parks don’t enjoy and that save the resort and theme park time and money when it comes to building and other operations. He replaced the Disney-friendly board overseeing the district with his own appointees. 

The governor even floated the idea of building a state prison on bordering land, increasing taxes, introducing more regulations, building affordable workforce housing, and exploring the sale of distinct-owned utilities.

The motion filed Monday called Disney’s special tax district a “sweetheart deal.” The state said that DeSantis, and another defendant in the case — Meredith Ivey, secretary for Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity — technically don’t enforce the changes to Disney’s district because the board members he appointed do so instead. 

Attorneys for the board, formally known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, filed a separate motion saying the federal case should be dismissed or go on hold until the counter-lawsuit the board filed in state court is resolved. 



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