DANIEL VAUGHAN: Disney Loses Against Florida - They Fight For Nothing

 January 31, 2024

Disney's lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come to an end. The district court overseeing the matter has thrown the case out, saying Disney has failed for several reasons. It's a clear victory for DeSantis that sends Disney back to square one. To be sure, the House of Mouse is planning to appeal the decision, but it's hard to see where they dig out from their hole.

If you recall, Disney stepped in with several corporations to blast Florida's "parental rights in education bill that banned classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity." Disney and other leftist groups called it the "Don't Say Gay" bill. In response, DeSantis and Florida moved to strip Disney of its quasi-government role in running the land at Disney World.

Disney sued, claiming this violated its First Amendment free speech rights. The court disagreed and dismissed Disney's suit. It's about as thorough of a loss as Disney could have received.

Regarding DeSantis specifically, the court dismissed the case because Disney couldn't prove the Governor had harmed them at all. One of the issues that Disney raised is that DeSantis-appointed his people to a board instead of Disney-selected people. They claim this was part of their overall harm from the state law. The judge noted:

Disney has not alleged any specific actions the new board took (or will take) because of the Governor's alleged control. In fact, Disney has not alleged any specific injury from any board action. Its alleged injury, as discussed above, is its operating under a board it cannot control. That injury would exist whether or not the Governor controlled the board...

For all the bellyaching that Disney did in the press, they fell incredibly short in their case. This is one of several instances where Disney didn't identify a harm with a claim. A critical piece of federal law is that if you don't allege a harm, you can't sue. Without that vital component, a case falls apart.

And that's what happened to Disney's claims against DeSantis.

What about the First Amendment parts of Disney's argument? That issue fell apart, too. The court said: 

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."

The problem with Disney's claim is that the law DeSantis and Florida passed was unquestionably constitutional. Disney admitted and agreed that Florida had the power to issue the rules it did for the Disney World land. Disney also said there was nothing unconstitutional about Florida or its Governor appointing people to the new governing board of the area.

Claiming retaliation isn't enough. Case law is clear on this point. What's unclear is why Disney is continuing the charade. 

Disney claims it will appeal the decision. "This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here," the company stated. "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."

But they're going to appeal this case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the same case law that controls Florida is the standard there as well. The Appeals Court will say the same thing after Disney makes the same failed arguments, and we will see them ending up in the same spot.

This isn't a legal argument anymore, then. It's just about Disney playing a public relations game. Once they step foot in court, reality and the law set in, and they're on course to continue losing.

All last year, I wrote about Disney's sinking ship. In September, I wrote that Disney needed to end these cases because it was getting hammered on its bottom line. Now, Disney has lost a case and is likely to lose on appeal, too. Do they plan on trying to get the Supreme Court to take this case? I'm certain of the outcome there, too.

At some point, someone at Disney has to look around and ask, "What's the point?" They're alienating customers, costing dollars on the bottom line, and dragging the Disney name through the mud on a failed legal expedition. There are no legal principles to uphold here - Florida and DeSantis are right.

Disney isn't standing for free speech. They want total control of the Disney World property. Florida is denying Disney that right, which the state has the right and power to do. There's an old legal joke that in a case when you have the facts on your side, you pound the facts. When you have the law on your side, you pound the law. If you have neither of those, you pound the table.

Disney is doing a lot of table pounding. At some point, sanity has to take over in the boardrooms of that company. They're gaining nothing and losing a lot. If they continue down this road, it's another sign that woke brain rot has taken over and destroyed what was once one of the most successful media companies on the planet. It's a stunning fall from grace.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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