Disney wants only its free speech claims against DeSantis litigated in federal court

Disney’s attorneys asked a federal court on Friday to narrow the scope of the company’s free speech lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials.

In a court filing on Friday, Disney moved to withdraw four of its five claims against DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), which governs the Walt Disney World Resort, leaving only the free speech allegations. The company is challenging a Florida law that replaced its decades-old special self-governing powers with a DeSantis-appointed board that now oversees the resort. Disney alleges the law was passed in retaliation for the company’s opposition Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law — labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.

“This federal case will therefore address only the current Fifth Cause of Action, not at issue in the state court case: Disney’s First Amendment challenge to the retaliatory reconstitution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” Disney attorneys argued in the court filing.U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor rejected Disney’s motion on procedural grounds, inviting the company to refile “after conferring with Defendants and otherwise complying with the Local Rules,” court documents show.

Disney moved to narrow its federal lawsuit weeks after the company's failed bid to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the CFTOD in state court. The board is seeking to have agreements that gave Disney broad construction powers to be voided after the board voted to end the development contracts that Disney had made before the board took over amid what it called a "climate of escalating retaliation," according to CNBC.

The dispute over Disney's agreements overlaps both cases, and Disney wants to have that matter handled at state court while the free speech claims against DeSantis are litigated in federal court.

DeSantis replaced Disney’s former Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), which had allowed the theme park giant to self-govern since the 1960s before Disney World first opened, with allied board members to the new CFTOD this year.

Disney first sued the board in federal court earlier this year, accusing DeSantis of replacing the RCID in retaliation for the company speaking out against Florida’s so-called "Don’t Say Gay" law.

DeSantis has called on Disney to drop its lawsuit, insisting the company will lose.

"I would just say go back to what you did well; I think it's going to be the right business decision," DeSantis said on CNBC last month when asked what he’d tell Disney CEO Bob Iger of their public feud. "We've basically moved on, they're suing the state of Florida, they're going to lose that lawsuit. So, what I would say is: drop the lawsuit.