- The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) responded to Disney’s federal lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the district board on Wednesday, urging the U.S. District Court to dismiss the case or abstain from it.
- CFTOD argues that Disney should not have influence over local government affairs and asserts that federal courts should dismiss the challenge due to unresolved state law.
- CFTOD’s attorneys highlight potential impacts of a ruling on Disney’s federal claims, including voiding development agreements and rendering claims related to contract clauses, takings, due process, and first amendment retaliation ineffective.
- They also question the legitimacy of Disney’s development agreements and assert that Florida has the sovereign power to shape its government’s operations despite Disney’s First Amendment claims.
Urging the U.S. District Court to dismiss the legal challenge, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) has responded to Disney’s federal lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the district board.
The CFTOD’s reply brief, filed on Wednesday, requests that the court either abstain from the case or completely dismiss it. The district’s central argument pertains to the belief that Disney should not hold sway over local government affairs. The brief additionally asserts that federal courts should hold off on any preliminary rulings due to the case’s connection to unresolved state law.
The district’s attorneys also state in the brief that a ruling could impact Disney’s federal claims by voiding development agreements, potentially rendering claims related to contracts clauses, takings, due process, and first amendment retaliation ineffective.
“The Court need not reach the merits, however, because this dispute doubly belongs in state court,” the brief states. “This Court should grant the District’s motion and either abstain or dismiss the case.”
The CFTOD further highlighted in the filing Disney’s admission that its board lacked the proper procedures to endorse development agreements. The brief contends that the agreement’s legitimacy solely hinges on the Florida Local Government Development Agreement Act, a point of contention raised by Disney, which it claims consequently casts doubt on the entire agreement’s validity.
Disney’s First Amendment claims were also called into question, with attorneys asserting that the state of Florida possesses the sovereign power to shape its representative government’s operations. The brief contends that the First Amendment’s Speech Clause doesn’t curtail the state’s decision-making authority in this regard.
‘This rule is no more than a recognition of a State’s constitutional responsibility for the establishment and operation of its own government,” the brief continues. “The Speech Clause of the First Amendment does not constrain this exercise of State sovereignty.”
The Walt Disney Company in April filed a 77-page federal lawsuit against DeSantis on grounds that he engaged in “governmental retaliation” when the state gained control of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID).
DeSantis signed legislation earlier this year that stripped Disney’s control of Reedy Creek, officially renaming it as the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District,” and granting the governor the power to appoint its Board of Supervisors.
“There is no room for disagreement about what happened here: Disney expressed its opinion on state legislation and was then punished by the State for doing so,” reads Disney’s legal action. “This is as clear a case of retaliation as this Court is ever likely to see.”