UPDATED: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again may become a mantra for both the Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in their legal dust-ups with each other.
After first being denied on procedural grounds its move to file a First Amendment-centric second amended complaint in a federal court dispute with the GOP presidential contender, Disney on Thursday took another swing at the docket bat — and clocked it with DeSantis’ actual approval.
More from Deadline
“Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), all Defendants have provided written consent to this amendment,” the Bob Iger-run media giant noted in today filing, as was requested by U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor just more than a week ago (see below).
“We will continue to fight vigorously to defend these contracts, because these agreements will determine whether or not Disney can invest billions of dollars and generate thousands of new jobs in Florida,” a spokesperson for the company told Deadline of Disney’s intent to deal solely with contractual matters in the suit from Florida officials filed in state court.
However, while Disney is now free to pursue purely constitutional pathways to push back on DeSantis’ “retribution” over the company’s eventual opposition last year to the Sunshine State’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, the governor’s desires have now been stymied by the courts.
In a one-page order issued today, Judge Allen Winsor told the Florida government defendants that they are going to have to go back to the starting line in their efforts to dismiss the case.
“Plaintiff has filed a Second Amended Complaint,” wrote the judge. “Accordingly, the motions to dismiss the First Amended Complaint are denied as moot.” He added, “Defendants must respond to the Second Amended Complaint within 14 days. Alternatively, if the parties wish to stipulate that the earlier motions to dismiss, response, and replies (to the extent applicable to the remaining claim) should be directed to the Second Amended Complaint, they may file a joint notice saying so, and the court will address those arguments as applied to the new pleading.”
So it looks like DeSantis has moved on in the battle with Disney, as he insisted on CNBC on August 14 — but not in the way he envisioned.
PREVIOUSLY, September 1 PM: The Walt Disney Company has been blocked again in the Florida courts in its battle with Gov. Ron DeSantis – – at least for the time being.
A motion by the Mouse House today to amend its April 22-filed complaint against the alleged retaliatory GOP candidate and various Sunshine State officials to purely constitutional issues was quickly denied by a federal judge. The blow to Disney’s effort to streamline the initial suit to avoid overlapping with contractual elements of a state court case filed by DeSantis and crew this summer is a result of the company apparently not following the rules to have the other side agree or at least chime in on the request.
“Plaintiff’s motion to amend is DENIED without prejudice because it does not comply with Local Rule 7.1(C), which requires a certificate confirming compliance with Rule 7.1(B)’s attorney-conference requirement,” U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor ordered in a head-spinning fast reply to Disney’s motion to amend that was submitted just earlier today. “Plaintiff may refile the motion after conferring with Defendants and otherwise complying with the Local Rules,” he added in the optimistic belief that either side in this bitter dispute could agree on much except how they clearly have contempt for each other and see the other side as a stepping-stone of sorts (read the judge’s order denying Disney’s motion here).
Having failed in July to get the state case tossed out and last month filing a countersuit, the Mouse House now wants to focus its federal case on the impact of Florida’s Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B, which DeSantis and his allies allegedly brought forth earlier this year to reign in Disney for eventually dissenting with the conservative controlled state’s harsh parental rights bill. “Because both pieces of legislation retaliate against Disney for its protected speech, Disney is entitled to a declaratory judgment that the laws are unconstitutional and an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing them,” the company asserted in its now DOA amended complaint (read Disney’s denied amended complaint against DeSantis here).
Disney declined to comment today on Judge Winsor’s order. But it is not outside the realm of possibilities that the Bob Iger-run company will try to get the Florida Attorney General’s office on its side – whether DeSantis, who says he’s moved on from fighting Disney, and AG Anita Patel want to do them that favor is a whole other matter. If the defendants are in sync, then Disney will not have to file another motion for an amended complaint. If the Florida gang say “no way,” Disney must put another motion in the court docket and take their chances again with Judge Winsor.
Admittedly repetitive, both the federal and state litigation revolves around the incessantly anti-woke DeSantis’ appoint of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board in late February after the state moved to strip Disney of its 55 years of control over the special district in and around Disney World. In legal filings and in statements by past and present CEO Iger, Disney has constantly exclaimed that the governor violated its First Amendment and other constitutional rights by retaliating with the new board and other moves after the company last year publicly opposed the so-called “don’t say gay” law.
Uniquely mocked by both Joe Biden and Donald Trump for picking a fight with one of Florida’s largest employers and source of tourist and tax dollars, DeSantis in recent weeks has said he’s “moved on” from the dust-up with Disney. Struggling in the polls in an increasingly unlikely attempt to snare the 2024 Republican nomination for POTUS, the governor also insisted to CNBC last month that Disney should pull the plug on the lawsuit against him because they’re “going to lose.”
Regardless of today’s legal pothole for Disney, based on the motivation behind today’s motion, Iger and crew have clearly not moved on – they’ve doubled down.
Best of Deadline