U.S. District Court Judge Allen Winsor has dismissed Disney’s lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) after he stripped them of their special improvement district status.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District (also known as RCID or Reedy Creek) “effectively controlled the district’s board,” but the State of Florida amended the district’s structure after the company criticized the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The Governor of Florida now selects the board members (with Senate confirmation) of the district.
In Judge Winsor’s opinion, he acknowledges the ruling of Houston Cmty. Coll. Sys. v. Wilson (2022). It states, “As a general matter, the First Amendment prohibits government officials from subjecting individuals to retaliatory actions after the fact for having engaged in protected speech.”
“But it is settled law that ‘when a statute is facially constitutional, a plaintiff cannot bring a free-speech challenge by claiming that the lawmakers who passed it acted with a constitutionally impermissible purpose,’” wrote Winsor.
Therefore, Gov. DeSantis and the State of Florida acted within the state constitution as Disney is “not the district’s only landowner and other landowners within the district are affected by the same laws …” Furthermore, Winsor stated that the “courts shouldn’t look to a law’s legislative history to find an illegitimate motivation for an otherwise constitutional statute.”
DeSantis’ Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern provided a statement regarding the federal judge’s ruling.
“As stated by Governor DeSantis when he signed HB 9-B, the Corporate Kingdom is over. The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone. The federal court's decision made it clear that Governor DeSantis was correct: Disney is still just one of many corporations in the state, and they do not have a right to their own special government. In short — as long predicted, case dismissed.”
On Jan. 21, DeSantis ended his presidential campaign and endorsed former President Donald Trump (R) as he looks to secure the nomination over former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC).