Disney is asking a Florida judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, arguing that the complaint has been challenged by a state law and that courts cannot issue opinions that are merely advisory.
At the heart of it all is a battle for control over what was known about the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which Disney claims Governor Ron DeSantis was disbanded in retaliation for political statements protected by the First Amendment.
After months of escalating tensions, the legal battle erupted in April when Disney sued DeSantis alleging he usurped the board overseeing his special district, falsely voided development contracts and made other threats following his public opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. (Residents have also sued the governor over the tax implications of Reedy Creek’s dissolution.) The company, in a last-ditch effort to retain control of its real estate, quietly struck a deal signed which effectively left the DeSantis-appointed board powerless until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, alive at the date of this declaration.”
The CFTOD filed its own lawsuit seeking a declaration that those contracts are void, and on Tuesday Disney filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the complaint or stay the case until the original fight is over.
Disney says the case is moot because days after the CFTOD indicted DeSantis, it signed Senate Bill 1604, which prohibits the board from “complying with the terms” of the contracts.
Argues Disney in the filing, which is enclosed below: “This court, therefore, cannot provide meaningful relief to either party: a ruling in favor of CFTOD would be meaningless and a ruling in favor of Disney would be meaningless. Under the Florida Constitution, courts have no authority to issue opinions that are advisory at best and have no real effect on the rights of the parties.”
If the court declines to dismiss the complaint, Disney says the case should be stayed until the federal trial is completed because “Florida law recognizes a robust ‘priority principle’ under which state proceedings must be suspended pending an earlier filed federal court proceeding.”
In addition to being the first to file a lawsuit, the company also argues that its federal lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the state law signed by DeSantis and that the eventual resolution of that issue would “materially affect the viability” of the claims in this case. .
“Disney seeks an explanation that the state’s action is illegal because it violates valid and enforceable contracts,” the filing said. “In its state case, CFTOD is seeking essentially the opposite: a statement that the contracts are void, unenforceable and invalid.”