Disney is asking the court to dismiss the DeSantis board’s tax district lawsuit
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Disney on Tuesday asked a Florida court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the board of directors that Gov. Ron DeSantis personally selected to oversee operations at Walt Disney World.
The court filing argues that the lawsuit became moot after DeSantis signed a bill voiding Disney’s development contracts, which are now at the center of the long-running conflict between Disney and the Republican governor.
In signing that law, DeSantis took essentially the same action that the board is asking the court to take, Disney argued.
The governor’s move “renders legally irrelevant any order that this court might issue — in favor of either party,” Disney attorneys wrote.
In a statement to CNBC, a spokesman for the special tax district overseen by the board said, “This filing by Disney is entirely predictable and a confirmation that they know they are going to lose this case.”
The state-level lawsuit was filed in response to Disney’s state civil lawsuit alleging that DeSantis and the board members conducted a political retaliation campaign against the entertainment giant. Disney filed suit after its board voted to reverse development deals it says it had in place to protect its investments.
Last week, Disney expanded its lawsuit, accusing DeSantis of fueling its political vendetta by signing legislation in Orlando to annul Disney’s development contracts.
The battle between DeSantis and one of the state’s largest employers began after Disney publicly criticized the controversial Florida law — dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics — that restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.
The governor and his allies shortly thereafter targeted Disney’s special tax district, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which for decades allowed the entertainment giant to effectively self-manage the operations of its Orlando parks.
The district ultimately remained intact, but its five-member board of directors was replaced by DeSantis’ picks.
In March, the new list of Disney County regulators accused Disney County of “on penalties” negotiating development deals aimed at undermining the board’s power over the 25,000-acre site. Disney disputes this characterization, arguing that the contracts served to set its long-term development plans.
DeSantis has continued his battle with Disney as he positions himself for a likely presidential campaign announcement in the coming weeks. The governor, currently seen as former President Donald Trump’s biggest threat for the 2024 Republican nomination, has garnered Republican favor and national attention by waging high-profile arguments over sensitive cultural issues.
But he may have been too harsh on Disney should the company win its motion to dismiss the board’s lawsuit based on the governor’s additional legislation.
Disney argued that this bill completely undermines the lawsuit against him, regardless of who would win.
If the court agrees with Disney that its development contracts were valid, “the board would still be barred from honoring them under new state law,” Disney argued.
If, on the other hand, the court were to side with the board of directors, its judgment would be “pointless, since the contracts would already be invalid under the new state law,” the company wrote.
“In short, any declaration as to the enforceability, nullity or validity of the contracts – one way or the other – would be an opinion with no real consequences. Florida courts are prohibited from giving expert opinions and this case should be dismissed.” “Disney argued.
The DeSantis office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/16/disney-asks-court-to-dismiss-desantis-boards-lawsuit.html Disney is asking the court to dismiss the DeSantis board’s tax district lawsuit