Recently Disney filed a motion to sharpen the focus of its lawsuit against Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders, including those on the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. This would remove a portion of the lawsuit that is being decided by a state court from this federal lawsuit. Instead of focusing on the development agreement, the federal lawsuit would instead focus on simply the “retaliatory weaponization of government in violation of Disney’s First Amendment rights.” Florida Federal Judge Allen Winsor rejected the motion, however, saying that if the opposition agreed to the change the motion was unnecessary.
On Thursday, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District released a statement saying that they agreed with Disney on this modification to the lawsuit. “Disney’s latest legal move puts them in line with the position of what the district has been advocating for months now: that these matters should be decided in state court,” said Alexei Woltornist, a spokesman for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. “We hope this helps expedite justice for the people of Florida.”
While the district is now agreeing to the modification to the lawsuit, it isn’t known if Governor DeSantis or others named in the lawsuit are also agreeing to the same approach.
The lawsuit came amid an ongoing feud that began after Disney came out against a law that Governor DeSantis was behind. Governor DeSantis then began to attack Disney in numerous speaches and then sought to have the Reedy Creek Improvement District dissolved. This district is the governing body for much of Walt Disney World Resort and was founded in the 1960s to help with the development of Walt Disney World Resort. It has continued to have an active role in the growth of Walt Disney World Resort through the years. Eventually, Governor DeSantis and the Florida legislature did indeed dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District. It was then replaced by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The board for the new district was hand picked by Governor DeSantis.
Shortly after the new board was installed, it was discovered that Disney and the Reedy Creek Improvement District had signed a development agreement that set the path for the district into the future for many years. While this was done in the public, the attention at the time was focused on what was going on at the state level regarding the future of the district and not what was actually happening at the district. Governor DeSantis and the Florida legislature then passed a law to empower the new district to nullify the development agreement and contracts connected with it. This led to the first lawsuit by Disney in federal court. Shortly after, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District countersued in state court. Eventually Disney also sued the district in state court as well.
If Judge Winsor approves this change this time around, the federal court will be determining the issue revolving around Disney’s First Ammendment rights regarding this case. In theory, this could lead to a hard reset of the district back to what it was before the feud began. The state government will then be tasked with determining the answer for how the development agreement and contracts are dealt with. This could end up being a non-issue depending on the outcome of the federal court case.
At this time, Disney has not commented on this development by the district in federal court.