It’s been a while since we had an update on what’s going on in the lawsuits between The Walt Disney Corporation and the state of Florida. But on Thursday afternoon, we received a copy of a memorandum that the attorneys for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) filed in the federal case in support of the motion to dismiss Disney’s free speech complaint against the state and the district.
The key point of the memorandum is the assertion that Disney is trying to hide behind the First Amendment in order to circumvent the authority of a duly elected government. The attorneys cite over a dozen other cases that help make the claim that Disney’s free speech argument in the suit is baseless and should be dismissed.
“The Free Speech clause of the First Amendment does not exempt Disney from our system of representative democracy. Disney asks this Court to set aside actions taken by the elected officials of Florida who sought to restore the State’s sovereignty over nearly 25,000 acres of land. Disney’s argument is as meritless as it is audacious,” the memorandum begins. “It contends that its free speech rights were somehow violated when Florida’s elected lawmakers restructured the governmental entity that oversees what was formally known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
The attorneys maintain that Disney’s claims in the suit center on what the company believes was retaliation for speaking out against the state’s Parental Rights in Education law. While that might have been the catalyst for the state’s reconsidering the legislation that gave Disney quasi-governmental authority, the legislature realized that Disney had outlived its Reedy Creek Improvement District power.
“In support of its argument, Disney points to no law, no regulation, and no legal rule of any kind that even mentions expressive activity,” the attorneys assert. “Instead, Disney’s speech claim turns entirely and exclusively on the purported retaliatory motivations of the lawmakers who enacted otherwise facially mundane statutes.”
The memorandum also points out that Disney is relying on specious hypotheticals to make its free speech case. Disney’s attorneys have cited racial and religious discrimination cases as well as gerrymandering cases to attempt to prove the company’s point, but the CFTOD attorneys argue that these citations are useless and beside the point of the dispute between the company and the state.
The attorneys even use Disney’s own words to prove that the case deserves to be dismissed.
“Disney says ‘nobody disputes that a state may remove unelected policymaking officials from high office or that elected leaders may employ senior officers committed to implementing their political agenda,’” the attorneys argue, citing a quote from Disney’s case. “But if that is true, this case should be over because Disney’s claim is, in effect, a derivative suit asserting that Florida’s elected officials may not select the officials who oversee the District.”
The memorandum concludes that Disney is attempting to thwart the work of a duly elected state government — along with the people who elected that government.
“It is Disney that seeks to undermine the State’s elected officials,” the attorneys state (with emphasis in the original). “It is Disney that aims to nullify the actions of the government selected by Florida’s voters. And it is Disney that asks the Court to create a Disney-only exception to our system of representative democracy. There is no precedent for this audacious demand, and the Court should reject it.”
There’s no telling how the judge will rule in this case, but the CFTOD’s attorneys have made an effective case. Read the entire memorandum here: