A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R-FL) law dissolving Disney’s special governing and tax district.
S.B. 4-C, the law that eliminates Disney’s special tax district, threatens higher taxes, limits free speech, and violates a contractual obligation, was challenged by three residents of Orange and Osceola counties.
Judge Cecilia Altonaga rules numerous reasons to dismiss the lawsuit
The suit was filed last week by William Sanchez, a Miami lawyer and Senate Democrat candidate. Judge Cecilia Altonaga of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that there were numerous reasons to dismiss the lawsuit, including a lack of standing over state issues.
According to Anltonaga, the residents “do not plausibly allege any concrete injury as a result of the alleged violation of Disney’s First Amendment rights, and nothing in the Complaint shows Plaintiffs have a close relationship with Disney.”
The judge also rejected claims that removing the Disney corporate carveout, also known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, would restrict free speech.
“Far from it: Plaintiffs expressly allege that they “expect Disney and the State of Florida to litigate this matter for a significant period of time[.]” That fact alone warrants dismissal. See, e.g., Harris, 20 F.3d at 1124–25 (holding that case must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the plaintiff failed to show that non-parties whose First Amendment rights were allegedly violated faced hindrance in asserting their rights).
Another notable exception to the general principle that a party may not sue for violations of others’ constitutional rights applies in the First Amendment context. But that exception relaxes traditional standing requirements only when a litigant asserts a claim of First Amendment overbreadth. Plaintiffs assert no such claim here. They instead allege what is in essence a First Amendment retaliation claim on Disney’s behalf. And First Amendment retaliation claims do not qualify for watered-down third-party standing standards.”
Altonaga also stated that none of the plaintiff’s claims was “ripe” because the legislation will not go into effect until July 2022. Sanchez responded to the ruling by promising to file another challenge on behalf of the plaintiffs by next week. “This is only the beginning of the battle as we seek justice for Florida taxpayers,” Sanchez said in a statement. After the megacorporation opposed DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education Act, DeSantis and Florida state legislators pushed for legislation to strip Disney of its special corporate carveout. This comes on the heels of Disney’s promise to include “many, many, many LGBTQIA characters in its stories.”