Disney cites Andrew Warren decision in case against DeSantis

by | Jan 15, 2024

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is leveraging a recent decision in the Andrew Warren suspension case in its federal lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis, arguing that it parallels their claim of First Amendment rights infringement.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is using a recent ruling in the Andrew Warren suspension case to bolster its own lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In a filing submitted last Thursday as part of its federal lawsuit against DeSantis, Disney referenced the ongoing Andrew Warren case, arguing that the principles upheld in that decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court are relevant.

The filing suggests that the state’s legislative actions against Disney, particularly after its opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, might constitute a breach of First Amendment rights, drawing a parallel to the Warren case where similar issues were at play.

“Walt Disney Parks and Resorts hereby notifies the Court of the recent decision of the Eleventh Circuit in Warren v. DeSantis, as supplemental authority supporting WDPR’s position in this case,” the filing reads. “According to the Eleventh Circuit, the district court erred in determining that certain of the Governor’s justifications for the suspension fell outside the scope of First Amendment protection … The same values are at stake here.”

Last Wednesday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a lower court’s ruling on the suspension of State Attorney Andrew Warren by DeSantis. In its opinion, the appellate court did not issue a definitive ruling on Warren’s suspension. Rather, it recommended that the federal district court in Tallahassee, which had previously declined to order Warren’s return to office, should revisit specific aspects of the case.

The Eleventh Circuit asserted that Warren, who advocated for various reforms during his tenure, was targeted by DeSantis, suspended via Executive Order, and subsequently replaced with a political ally of the governor.

Wednesday’s opinion now calls for a reevaluation of whether DeSantis’ decision to suspend Warren would have been the same, absent the consideration of Warren’s First Amendment activities. Further, the court addressed DeSantis’ argument regarding probable cause for Warren’s suspension, decisively concluding that there never was a probable cause to justify the suspension.

“The district court erred in concluding that the First Amendment did not protect the activities behind two of the other factors,” the filing reads. “We therefore vacate and remand. On remand, DeSantis must prove that unprotected activity, such as Warren’s actual performance or his policies, motivated him to suspend Warren.”

In response to Disney’s supplemental filing, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) retorted, stating that the Warren case is not analogous to the case at hand, as first reported by Florida Politics.

“The Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Warren says nothing about foreclosing a retaliation challenge to legislation based solely on the subjective motivations of lawmakers,” the filing reads. “In sum, Warren has no effect on this case.”


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