Florida legislation that was designed to hamstring Disney could end up helping the company, at least in relation to a lawsuit in state court over development at Walt Disney World near Orlando.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney have been sparring for more than a year over a special tax district that encompasses Disney World. The fight started when the company criticized a Florida education law labeled by opponents as “Don’t Say Gay” — angering Mr. DeSantis, who vowed to show Disney who was boss.
His punitive actions since then, and Disney’s efforts to protect itself, have resulted in a federal lawsuit, which Disney filed on April 26. It claimed that Mr. DeSantis and his allies engaged in a “targeted campaign of government retaliation.”
The tax district — newly controlled by Mr. DeSantis — responded by suing Disney in state court. Filed on May 1, the district’s lawsuit seeks to nullify contracts with Disney that lock in development plans for the resort. A few days later, the Florida Legislature, at the request of Mr. DeSantis, passed a bill that prohibited the district from complying with the contracts. Mr. DeSantis signed it into law on May 5.
On Tuesday, Disney filed a motion to dismiss the state court case. As a matter of legal maneuvering, the filing was routine: Disney wants to shut down the state case and focus on the federal one.
But the company’s argument to the state judge about why the district’s case should be tossed was less expected: Mr. DeSantis and his allies in the Legislature rendered the lawsuit moot with their subsequent actions, the filing said. By prohibiting the district from complying with the contracts, Mr. DeSantis and the Legislature made “any order this court could issue — in either party’s favor — legally irrelevant.”
“In short, any declaration about the contracts’ enforceability, voidness or validity — either way — would be an advisory opinion with no real-world consequence,” Disney added in the filing. “Trial courts in Florida are forbidden from issuing advisory opinions.” The company cited more than 40 court rulings in support of its argument.
Alexei Woltornist, a spokesman for the tax district, said in email that Disney’s motion was “entirely predictable and an acknowledgment they know they will lose this case.” A spokesman for Mr. DeSantis had no immediate comment.
If the state judge allows the case to proceed, Disney’s filing went on to say, the matter should at the very least…
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