Federal judge dismisses Democrat lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis over new law to strip Disney of self-governing privilege

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation in April that would strip the Walt Disney World Resort of special self-governing privileges it was granted in 1967 following Disney’s corporate leaders joining with a media-mischaracterized dispute over earlier legislation involving the rights of parents in education.

The move to strip Disney of the special privilege it had enjoyed for decades spurred a lawsuit from Democrats, but that suit was just dismissed Tuesday by a federal judge, the Washington Examiner reported.

That judge cited several reasons for the dismissal, including that the federal court had no jurisdiction, the plaintiffs had no real argument, and the challenged law hadn’t even gone into effect yet.

The attorney who brought the lawsuit, William Sanchez, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, took the loss in stride and vowed to resubmit a rewritten lawsuit in the future.

Judge says “No” to lawsuit

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Sanchez filed the lawsuit last week on behalf of four Florida taxpayers in order to stop Florida from following through on the legislation that would revoke the Reedy Creek Improvement District — a self-governing privilege extended to Disney in 1967 to encourage the construction of Disney World in an area that, at that time, lacked the infrastructure or support services to handle a major tourist destination.

The lawsuit argued that Florida taxpayers, particularly in Orange and Osceola counties, would be saddled with higher taxes and inherit Disney’s debt, which would result in thousands of lost jobs, and that the new law violated Florida’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights as well as Disney’s First Amendment rights.

Fox Business noted that District Judge Cecilia Altonaga, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, wasn’t buying those arguments, though, and rejected all counts claimed by the plaintiffs.

Her main reason for dismissal was simply that, as a federal judge, her court had no jurisdiction over an internal state matter, and that the plaintiffs had no standing to claim First Amendment violations on behalf of Disney. She also questioned the dubious and “speculative” claims of harm from the plaintiffs for a law that hadn’t even taken effect yet.

Judge Altonaga wrote that the new law “does not apply to them, they do not allege direct harm as a result of the challenged law, and they do not plausibly allege any credible threat of direct harm in the future.”

She also addressed the speculation of potential future tax increases and noted, “That indirect and highly speculative alleged injury cannot support federal jurisdiction,” and reiterated, “Again — it is worth emphasizing — the bill does not apply to Plaintiffs at all.”

Attorney will try again with amended complaint

“Since the order is without prejudice, plaintiffs will be filing an amended complaint, as is often done in matters such as these,” Sanchez said of the dismissal in a statement to the Examiner.

He added, “The amended complaint should be filed by Monday, May 16th, 2022. This is just the beginning of the battle, as we are attempting to achieve justice for Florida taxpayers.”

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