Ron DeSantis’s legal crusades are costing Florida taxpayers millions… and he’s not stopping

Lynchburg, Virginia USA - April 14, 2023 - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at Liberty University on April 14, 2023.
Lynchburg, Virginia USA - April 14, 2023 - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at Liberty University on April 14, 2023. Photo: Shutterstock

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is costing Florida taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees as he continues his culture crusade and repeatedly ends up in court.

Along with Florida’s GOP lawmakers, DeSantis – who recently announced his campaign for president of the United States – continues to pass laws targeting LGBTQ+ people and other minorities. And these laws continue to end up being challenged in court, and it’s Florida citizens footing the millions of dollars worth of bills.

According to a report from the Miami Herald, DeSantis’s legal costs last December already added up to almost $17 million. And the lawsuits just keep coming.

Many experts believe this is by design. Democratic State Sen. Lori Berman told The Guardian that, considering he has a Harvard law degree, DeSantis “should understand the constraints placed on him and the state by the United States Constitution and the Florida constitution.”

“He knows those constraints, but he doesn’t care,” Berman continued. “His goal is to intentionally pass unconstitutional laws and set up legal challenges in order for the conservative supreme court to overturn long-held protections.”

Nova Southeastern University law professor Bob Jarvis described it as a game of “heads I win, tails you lose.”

“If he gets one of these crazy policies passed and they’re challenged and the court upholds him… he can say to the press and to the public, ‘I was right and the proof is in the pudding because the courts agreed with me.'”

But Jarvis said DeSantis even wins when a judge rules against him.

“DeSantis is able to stand up and say, ‘These crazy judges want our children to watch drag shows, they want our children to be taught to be gay, they want Disney to be this terrible company. That’s why you need a strong governor and why you will benefit from having me as president because I will make sure to get rid of these judges and replace them with judges that have traditional American morals.'”

What’s more, Republican state lawmakers have fully backed DeSantis’s rampage, approving a whopping $16 million of the state’s budget exclusively to cover litigation.

State House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D) said the Republicans gave DeSantis “a carte blanche to go and fight these wars in court.”

“It’s basically just saying that there are no checks and balances when it comes to the state government in Florida,” Driskell said, adding that “most Floridians can’t afford their rent and property insurance rates are through the roof. We could have redirected that money towards affordable housing.”

Driskell also pointed out that only $2 million was appropriated for a program to provide health care to disabled Florida residents.

But speaking to the Tallahassee Democrat, state senate budget chair Doug Broxson emphasized, “We want the governor to be in a comfortable position to speak his mind, and we’re going to support him on those things.”

DeSantis certainly seems to feel comfortable saying whatever he wants, considering he has used his position to repeatedly denigrate LGBTQ+ people and people of color, as well as to punish Disney for speaking out against him.

A lawsuit filed by Disney is one of the many cases in which DeSantis is tangled. The entertainment company is suing the governor for “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” in response to the company criticizing his infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law.

DeSantis had already been spending $1,300 an hour in legal fees to investigate Disney after it pulled a fast one on him and made a stealthy move to prevent him from stripping the company of its long-held power over its own tax district.

Now he must defend himself after a ruthless campaign to punish the House of Mouse, and a new development in the case is giving him good odds.

District Judge Mark E. Walker recused himself from presiding after discovering a family member owned shares of Disney stock. Taking his place is Judge Allen C. Winsor, a Trump-appointed judge who dismissed a complaint against the Don’t Say Gay law.

Winsor’s nomination was opposed by civil rights organizations in part because of his long history of working on cases to restrict the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people. He worked on several cases defending Florida’s ban on marriage equality, arguing in one that the state should be allowed to ban same-sex couples from getting married because of “a clear and essential connection between [heterosexual] marriage and responsible procreation and childrearing.”

All in all, it seems DeSantis is set to continue doing whatever he wants, no matter the costs or legal consequences. And if he manages to win the presidency, it will likely get worse.

MSNBC correspondent Jen Psaki recently pointed out DeSantis’s repeated statements about his plans to “leverage” Article II of the Constitution, which establishes the powers and limits of the executive branch.

“Desantis has made repeatedly clear this week that he’s not actually interested in any limitations or guardrails at all,” Psaki said. “He’s already forecasting that if elected he’ll find ways to sidestep constitutional restraints on presidential power.”

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