Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign rally in Eagle Pass, Texas, June 26, 2023.

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Lawyers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday asked federal court to dismiss the disneyThe lawsuit alleges political retaliation against the company, saying he and at least one other defendant are “immune” and that Disney has no standing to sue them.

The lawyers also argued that Disney’s complaint — against the company after DeSantis denounced a controversial state classroom bill derided by critics as “Don’t Talk Gay” — “fails to make a claim that would grant relief.” .

A Disney spokesperson did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the court filing.

The governor’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit comes as he is locked in a protracted battle with Disney during the Republican presidential primary campaign. The fight between DeSantis, the top Republican contender behind former President Donald Trump, and Disney, one of Florida’s top employers, has been brewing for more than a year.

The 27-page motion to dismiss was filed by attorneys for DeSantis and Florida Economic Opportunity Secretary Meredith Ivey.

“Disney has no standing to sue the governor and minister, nor are they immune to lawsuits,” they argued in a filing in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.

The entertainment giant’s lawsuit centers on the special tax district surrounding Walt Disney World in Florida, which for decades allowed the company to operate largely autonomously there. DeSantis and his allies moved to disband the special tax district after Disney criticized the Republican-backed classroom bill.

The district, formerly known as the Reed Creek Improvement District, was left intact due to concerns that neighboring counties would be in debt if dissolved. But it was renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and its five-member board was replaced by a candidate preferred by DeSantis.

Disney struck a development deal before a new board member took over. New board members accused the company of obstructing their power and voted to void the contract, prompting the company to sue.

Lawyers for the governor argued in Monday’s filing that “any injury that may have arisen from the school district conflict and contract” cannot be traced back to the state defendants and that barring the state defendants would not provide Disney with relief.

Neither DeSantis nor Ivey enforced any of the legislative actions implicated in the lawsuit, and Disney’s attempts to tie them to those laws are “unpersuasive,” the lawyers wrote.

“Signing into law is not ‘executing’ it,” they argue, adding that “Disney’s charges against the governor fit neatly within his legislative immunity” and that “the charge of retaliatory intent does not change the analysis.”

Disney filed the First Amendment lawsuit in federal court in late April. Days later, the board appointed by DeSantis filed a countersuit in state court. Disney filed in May to have the state suit dismissed.

The board dissented in a June 19 filing, writing: “Disney’s motion is classic fantasy engineering, asking the court to convince people that Disney’s dream is a reality.”


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