BREAKING: Disney Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Filed by Governor DeSantis’ Oversight Board

The Walt Disney Company is asking a judge to dismiss or stay the lawsuit by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors, Deadline reports.

Disney filed a motion in Florida state court in Orange County to declare the CFTOD Board’s state lawsuit “moot.” The motion states that Florida law requires the court to stay the lawsuit until Disney’s own federal lawsuit against the Board and Governor DeSantis is resolved.

“Disney’s earlier-filed and earlier-served federal action is pending between substantially the same parties, and it involves substantially overlapping issues,” the brief reads. “In these circumstances, controlling precedents provide that the court lacks discretion to proceed with this case. Disney regrets that it is compelled to litigate these issues anywhere, but the federal action is the proper vehicle for first hearing the parties’ dispute.”

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors replaces the Reedy Creek Improvement District Board of Supervisors. The five members of the new Board were appointed by Governor DeSantis and recently confirmed by the Florida Sentate.

Board chair Martin Garcia and vice chair Michael Sasso will serve four-year terms until February 26, 2027. The other three members — Brian August, Bridget Ziegler, and Ron Peri — will serve two-year terms until February 26, 2025.

Glen Gilzean, Jr. has been hired as the new District administrator, with John Classe moving to a special advisor role.

Disney Suing DeSantis & CFTOD Board

Collage of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney CEO Bob Iger

In their lawsuit against Governor DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board, Disney Parks & Resorts cites “a targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The plaintiff further argues that this chronology of events “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

Among other grievances, the Governor’s threat of new tolls and taxes, and the Board’s decision to void the company’s final agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District Board were included in the document.

They name Governor DeSantis, the CFTOD Board of Supervisors members, and now former District administrator John Classe. Glen Gilzean, Jr. is the new District administrator.

Disney is suing for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” Injunctive relief forces a party to act in a certain way or prevents them from doing various things.

Disney regrets that it has come to this, but having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.

The federal judge originally attached to the lawsuit recused himself.

CFTOD Board Suing Disney

The CFTOD Board of Supervisors voted to file their own countersuit against Disney. While Disney’s lawsuit is through federal court, the Board’s lawsuit is through state court.

In their 188-page complaint, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District named itself as the plaintiff and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US Inc. as the defendant. Through nearly 200 pages of legalese, the district asks the state court to render Disney’s development agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District as unenforceable, null, and void. They also ask the same to be done of the restrictive covenants, which notably set the benchmark for expiry at 21 years after the death of the last living descendant of King Charles III, living as of the date of the document.

The CFTOB additionally asks that all agreements cannot be enforced on Disney’s end either. Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans and typically acts to rubber stamp Gov. DeSantis’ agenda, is working to pass a law that invalidates Disney’s agreement with Reedy Creek. Governor DeSantis said it was well within his power to do so.

Origins of the Feud

The Florida Governor and Walt Disney Company initially clashed over the corporation’s opposition to a much-debated and controversial Florida law regarding classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, alongside various other recent state laws and proposals in a similar vein.

Bob Chapek was Chief Executive Officer at the time and initially remained silent and passive on the issue — until massive internal criticisms from cast members and controversy over Disney’s practice of making hefty political contributions to campaigns and individuals allegedly against their own stated human principles came into focus.

In an apparent act of retribution over Chapek’s expression of dissent, the Governor moved forward with various verbal and legal assaults on Disney, including the attempted dissolution of Reedy Creek and the eventual transfer of power directly under his control. DeSantis argues he is attacking a rather vague perception of something he calls “woke politics,” invading the state. He further says he aims to put the people of Florida first through his actions:

Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long. It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence.

The Governor insists he will double down on efforts to punish the resort through methods both in the Legislature and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. Notably, he promised to hike hotel taxes and institute tolls on the roads around Walt Disney World Resort property. He also threatened to build a prison on Walt Disney World land and signed a bill into law requiring state inspections of Monorails.

A recent poll showed Americans are mostly split about whether or not Disney and Governor DeSantis have behaved “appropriately,” but think the court should rule in Disney’s favor.

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