Florida Judge Refuses to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Disney

A Florida judge denied a motion made by Disney to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the company by board members appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis in the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the new district sued Disney after the company sued Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders, including the new board.

The lawsuit against Disney accuses the company of wrongly stripping the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District by making a Development Agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney argued that this case was now moot because of a law that the Florida Legislature pushed through to allow the board to nullify the Development Agreement that was signed by Governor DeSantis. Because of this, Disney argued that the court didn’t have the authority to rule on this case.

“This Court accordingly cannot provide meaningful relief to either party: A ruling in CFTOD’s favor would be pointless, and a ruling in Disney’s favor would be meaningless,” wrote Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for Disney, in a motion to dismiss. “Under the Florida Constitution, trial courts have no power to issue opinions that are at best advisory and lack any real-world effect on the parties’ rights.”

9th Judicial Circuit judge Margaret Schreiber had different viewpoint on the case, however. “Because this case is not moot and a stay is not proper, the Court hereby denies Disney’s Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Stay this Action,” wrote Judge Schreiber in an order issued on Friday.

The Development Agreement in question gave Disney a wide range of powers for both design and construction within the district. While the agreement was made in the open, it was also made during a time when most Florida officials were more focused on the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and then putting the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District in its place. After this transition was finished, the new board of directors discovered the Development Agreement had stripped the district of many of its powers.

Disney has asked the state court to delay this case if not dismissed until after a separate federal lawsuit is determined. This lawsuit, which was brought by Disney against Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders including the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board, says it Disney had its right to free speech infringed and that it is “weaponizing the power of government to punish private business.”

“Today’s decision has no bearing on our lawsuit in federal court to vindicate Disney’s constitutional rights, and we are fully confident Disney will prevail in both the federal and state cases,” said a Disney spokesperson in a statement.

Governor DeSantis wasn’t a party in the state lawsuit, only the federal one. He is a part of the feud, however, as many Florida leaders continue to follow his lead on dealing with Disney. This includes the board of directors, all which were appointed by the governor.

DeSantis’ press secretary Jeremy T. Redfern released the following statement regarding the ruling:

“We are pleased to see that Disney will have to defend themselves on the merits instead of having the corporate press spike the football on their behalf.   Disney has no right to its own government and special privileges. Governor DeSantis will ensure that there will be a level playing field for businesses in Florida.”

What do you think of this ruling on this lawsuit against Disney? How do you think it will play out? How do you think it should play out? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!


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