Why doesn’t Gov. DeSantis want a trial with Disney until 2025? | Editorial
Ron DeSantis’ attorney asked for an August 2025 trial date to resolve the lawsuit filed by Disney.
Ron DeSantis has spent a lot of time fuming about Disney's wokeness.
Ron DeSantis has spent a lot of time fuming about Disney's wokeness.
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published July 6, 2023

Why the need to delay the trial for so long? That’s the obvious question after Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attorneys in the case against Disney sought a trial date more than two years from now. That’s a long time to wait to resolve this high-profile free speech dispute. It also happens to be after the 2024 election — you know, the one in which Florida’s Republican governor hopes to win the White House. Could it be, despite all of the governor’s “woke” Disney bluster, that he doesn’t think his legal case is very strong, so he’d prefer to put off a possible high-profile legal defeat for as long as possible?

Let’s recap. Last year, Disney opposed the state law that banned classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, a law called the Parental Rights in Education Act, but often dubbed Don’t Say Gay. DeSantis vowed to punish “woke corporations,” often referring to “woke Disney.” He even penned a column in The Wall Street Journal that stated that companies like Disney use their power to “advance a woke agenda,” and leaders like DeSantis must fight back or they cede “the political battlefield to the militant left.” And, of course, DeSantis is never shy to tell anyone who will listen that Florida “is where woke goes to die.”

The governor, with help from the state Legislature, took over the Disney World governing board and appointed a new board of supervisors to oversee municipal services for the sprawling theme parks and hotels. But in some legal jujitsu, the old board members — the ones that supported Disney — stripped the new supervisors of their authority over design and construction before the new members took charge. That made DeSantis look ineffective — Mickey Mouse, if you prefer — and he again said the fight wasn’t over. Not long after, DeSantis and the Legislature repealed those last-minute agreements. Disney sued on First Amendment and constitutional grounds, claiming DeSantis orchestrated “a relentless campaign to weaponize government power.”

Last month, the two sides asked the federal judge to set a trial date. Disney wanted next July. DeSantis’ team asked for Aug. 4, 2025.

In cases like this, the two sides also file motions laying out the reason why the judge should decide the case in their favor before a full trial. Disney wants the two sides to file those court documents in April 2024. Despite it being an opportunity to lay out the governor’s argument — and possibly win the case — DeSantis’ attorneys asked for April of 2025.

Yes, civil cases can take a long time. And, yes, everyone knows that politicians say things to get attention and rally their supporters. But DeSantis is so vocal in his condemnation of “woke Disney.” He is so confident that he is standing on the higher moral ground. He had opportunities to pull back or let the fight peter out. Instead, he gives no quarter, never wavering. He jabs at the private company repeatedly. But when he’s called to account in court, he wants to delay the legal reckoning until 2025.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.