In a noteworthy legal battle, the spotlight falls on the ongoing dispute between Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and the state of Florida, centered around the recently formed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The lawsuit, initiated by Disney, alleges unconstitutional retaliation by the state due to the entertainment giant’s opposition to a controversial education law. Here we cover full controversy of Central Florida Tourism Oversight District News, Disney’s Lawsuit Against Florida.
As the courtroom drama unfolds, both parties present their arguments before U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, with Disney contending that the state, led by Governor Ron DeSantis, unjustly targeted the company for expressing its political stance. This news encapsulates the latest developments in a case that intertwines the realms of corporate influence, constitutional rights, and governmental regulations.
Federal Judge Hears Arguments in Disney’s Lawsuit Against Florida Over Controversial Education Law
A federal judge, Allen Winsor, listened to arguments on Tuesday in the ongoing legal battle between Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and the state of Florida. Disney alleges that the state unlawfully retaliated against the entertainment giant due to its opposition to a contentious education law.
The lawsuit centers around the reformation of a special taxing district that historically granted Disney considerable self-governing authority over its theme parks and surrounding areas. The DeSantis administration and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District are seeking dismissal of the lawsuit.
Tensions escalated between Disney and Governor Ron DeSantis in 2022 when the company criticized a law restricting instruction on sexual identity and gender orientation in schools. In response, the Republican-controlled Legislature replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, whose board members are appointed by DeSantis.
Disney’s legal challenge contends that these changes amounted to punishment for political speech and a violation of the First Amendment. However, attorneys representing the governor and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District argued against Disney’s claims during the recent court proceedings.
Attorney Argues Disney’s Lawsuit Over Education Law Lacks Merit
Charles Cooper, the attorney representing the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board, asserted before U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor that the laws in question are standard regulatory provisions aimed at governing special districts. He emphasized that these laws don’t directly target Disney but instead focus on regulating special districts, undermining Disney’s free speech claim.
Cooper stated, “These laws are, on their face and in substance, ordinary, standard, regulatory provisions that regulate, what? They regulate special districts. They don’t even regulate directly Disney. That dooms their free speech claim.”
The Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis approved a law in 2022 to eliminate the Reedy Creek district and five other special districts, with the dissolution set for 2023. However, in February, they revisited the issue, replacing Reedy Creek with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
Cooper emphasized that the laws were not designed to single out Disney. He argued, “We don’t have a situation here where these laws have singled out this particular plaintiff. Neither statute that is before you explicitly singles out Disney.”
David Costello, a state deputy solicitor general, urged Judge Winsor to dismiss DeSantis and Florida Department of Commerce Secretary Alex Kelly as defendants in the case.
Disney’s Legal Standpoint in Lawsuit Against Florida
Representing Disney, attorney Daniel Petrocelli argued before U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor that Governor Ron DeSantis is at the forefront of the alleged retaliation against Disney. Petrocelli specified that Disney aims to prevent further appointments by the governor and potentially block him from influencing or controlling the board.
Petrocelli asserted, “He’s effectively, de facto in control” of the board, emphasizing that the board appointments are allegedly unlawful as the new law creating it was intended to punish Disney.
Responding to Winsor’s inquiry about the consequences of dissolving the new board, Petrocelli explained it would involve reverting to previous laws, where the Reedy Creek board was elected by Disney and a few other property holders.
Winsor stated that he would issue a ruling on the motions within the “next couple weeks.”
Governor DeSantis has frequently highlighted his clash with Disney as he pursues the Republican nomination for president in 2024. The dispute escalated when DeSantis targeted the Reedy Creek district after Disney opposed the 2022 education measure known as the “don’t say gay” law.
Jonathan Hacker, another attorney for Disney, argued that the law unconstitutionally retaliated against Disney for expressing a political viewpoint. David Costello, representing the state, countered that Disney’s grievance is essentially about losing its previous district and not directly tied to the new laws harming the company.
Winsor pressed on the issue, stating that Disney alleges specific harms caused by the actions of the new board and not just hurt feelings. Costello maintained that Disney hasn’t detailed “specific harms” and cannot establish a direct link between DeSantis and the board’s actions.