A Trump-appointed judge dismissed Disney’s lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis. The corporation had accused DeSantis of retaliating against it for publicly criticizing his “Don’t Say Gay Law” by seizing punitive swaths of control. We here at C&L have covered the matter extensively and it sure looks like that’s exactly what happened.
But while Judge Allen Winsor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Tallahassee agreed that DeSantis’ control board “works to Disney’s significant detriment,” the Tampa Bay Times noted he also “said the company could not point to the motivation behind the legislation to say it was unfairly targeted.”
Winsor also ruled Disney lacked standing:
In short, Disney lacks standing to sue the Governor or the Secretary, and its claims against the CFTOD Defendants fail on the merits because “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.” In re Hubbard, 803 F.3d 1298, 1312 (11th Cir. 2015).
I’m not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV or online. But it seems to me that when a governor writes in his book that he took action against Disney as retaliation for what’s supposed to be protected speech, you should believe him the first time.
In any event, it’s not a huge surprise that Judge Winsor sided with DeSantis over Disney. Winsor twice rejected a lawsuit by parents, students and teachers trying to block the “Don’t say gay” law as unconstitutional, claiming they didn’t have standing, either,
In 2018, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights all but predicted decisions like these when it opposed Winsor’s nomination:
Mr. Winsor is a young, conservative ideologue who has attempted to restrict voting rights, LGBT equality, reproductive freedom, environmental protection, criminal defendants’ rights, and gun safety. He does not possess the neutrality and fair-mindedness necessary to serve in a lifetime position as a federal judge.
As for Disney, it released a statement after the ruling:
“This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here. 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.
It’s yet another reason, in case you needed one, to do everything possible to elect pro-democracy, pro-Constitution officials everywhere, up and down every ballot.