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Disney is asking a Florida judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, arguing that the complaint was made moot by a state law and trial courts can’t issue opinions that are merely advisory.
Underlying all of this is a fight for control over what was known has the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which Disney alleges Gov. Ron DeSantis dissolved in retaliation for political statements that are protected by the First Amendment.
After months of escalating tensions, the legal battle erupted in April when Disney sued DeSantis alleging that he usurped the board that oversees its special district, improperly invalidated development contracts and made other threats following its public opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. (Residents have also sued the governor over the tax implications of dissolving Reedy Creek.) The company, in a last-ditch effort to retain control over its real estate, had quietly inked a deal that 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 living as of the date of this Declaration.”
The CFTOD filed its own suit seeking a declaration that those contracts are void, and on Tuesday Disney filed a motion asking the judge to either dismiss the complaint or stay the matter until the original fight plays out.
Disney says the case is moot because days after the CFTOD sued, DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1604, which prohibits the board “from complying with the terms” of the contracts.
Argues Disney in the filing, which is embedded below, “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. 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.”
If the court declines to dismiss the complaint, Disney argues the matter should be paused until the federal one is finished because “Florida law recognizes a robust ‘principle of priority,’ under which state proceedings should be stayed pending an earlier-filed federal court proceeding.”
In addition to the fact that Disney sued first, the company also argues its federal suit challenges the constitutionality of the state law signed by DeSantis and the ultimate resolution of that matter would “materially affect the viability” of the claims in this one.
“Disney seeks a declaration that the State’s action is unlawful because it impairs valid and enforceable Contracts,” states the filing. “In its state suit, CFTOD seeks essentially the opposite: a declaration that the Contracts are void, unenforceable, and invalid.”
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