Disney dropped a major bombshell this morning when it filed a notice to withdraw all but its First Amendment free speech claims against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in a high-profile political retaliation lawsuit.
The decision marks a major shift in the company’s legal strategy, which had sought to portray DeSantis as acting in a retaliatory manner for Disney’s refusal to agree to the governor’s demand regarding a bill which would have allowed political candidates to receive the same tax relief as industries.
The suit, which was filed in October of last year, had claimed that DeSantis used his power as governor to try to blackmail Disney and force them to accept the terms of the bill, in his own words so other people can benefit from it, too. Disney has argued that it was retaliated against for its refusal to endorse the bill by preventing it from accessing incentives they were otherwise entitled to receive.
Now, Disney is abandoning the retaliation claim altogether in favor of seeking to protect its First Amendment rights. In the notice filed with the court, Disney said it believes the First Amendment claim is the most significant legal issue in the case. The First Amendment claim is a wider-ranging argument challenging the governor’s capability to use the state’s power to discriminate against Disney or any other private citizen, on the basis of Disney’s refusal to support a political view.
It will be interesting to see how the case develops, however Disney’s withdrawal of its political retaliation argument does suggest a compromise may be reached in the near future. Disney has undoubtedly dug in its heels and signaled that it does not take kindly to being used as a political pawn.