Updated Feb 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Disney files appeal after judge dismissed lawsuit against Ron DeSantis

Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World

Crowds at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World in Florida in 2022. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Disney filed an appeal Thursday contesting a judge's dismissal of its lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which alleged his administration executed a "targeted campaign" against the company.

Why it matters: Judge Allen Winsor's ruling posed a major setback in Disney's yearslong feud with the Florida Republican.

  • DeSantis brushed off the notice of appeal as a "mistake" during a press conference Thursday, saying he was "shocked" by Disney's decision.
  • "I think that they should just kind of move on," he added.
  • Disney did not immediately responded to Axios' request for comment Thursday regarding the appeal.

Catch up quick: Disney filed the lawsuit against DeSantis last year, alleging the state had retaliated against Disney after the company criticized Florida's 2022 Parental Rights in Education law — dubbed by critics as "Don't Say Gay".

  • DeSantis responded with legislation shortly after revoking the special status of Reedy Creek, a municipal district operated at the time by Disney.
  • Early last year, he signed a bill transferring control of the district to the state.
  • Disney's lawsuit accused the DeSantis administration, in part, of violating the company's First Amendment rights.

State of play: Winsor ruled that Disney lacked sufficient standing to sue DeSantis and the secretary of Florida's Commerce Department.

  • He also ruled that Disney's claims against other defendants in the case — the DeSantis-appointed board overseeing the new state-controlled district — fail on merit.
  • Winsor wrote that Disney's claim it was injured by the appointment of the new board failed because "that action is in the past." Disney also failed to show how it was injured by actions taken because of DeSantis' control of the board, he added.
  • "Disney has not alleged any specific actions the new board took (or will take) because of the Governor's alleged control. In fact, Disney has not alleged any specific injury from any board action," Winsor wrote.

What they're saying: "This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here," a Disney spokesperson said in a previous statement shared with Axios.

  • "If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with. We are determined to press forward with our case," the spokesperson added.
  • Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for DeSantis, praised the ruling in a statement Wednesday, saying it proved DeSantis "was correct."
  • "The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone," he added.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect additional developments.

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