Florida Governor Ron DeSantis files motion to disqualify judge in Disney's federal lawsuit

May 19, 2023 in "Reedy Creek Improvement District"

Posted: Friday May 19, 2023 4:48pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is attempting to remove Chief Judge Mark E. Walker from presiding over Disney's federal lawsuit against DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District regarding the state's retaliatory actions again Disney.

In the motion filed today, DeSantis claims that Walker should disqualify himself from the case to "prevent even the appearance of impropriety."

The claim relates to two unrelated cases where the Court offered "Disney" as an example of state retaliation.

Walker was nominated to serve as district judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida by President Barack Obama in 2012 and became chief judge in June 2018.

You can read the full motion here and the opening comments below.

Defendants move to disqualify Chief Judge Mark E. Walker (the Court) under 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) because the Court's impartiality in this matter might reasonably be questioned. This case involves claims that Defendants retaliated against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc. based on Disney's viewpoints. Yet two previous times, in two unrelated cases, the Court sua sponte offered "Disney" as an example
of state retaliation. Those remarks—each derived from extrajudicial sources—were on the record, in open Court, and could reasonably imply that the Court has prejudged the retaliation question here. Because that question is now before this Court, and because that question involves highly publicized matters of great interest to Florida's citizens, the Court should disqualify itself to prevent even the appearance of impro-

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Batman'sParents3 hours ago

Looking at the BOS Agenda for the 13th I saw “special magistrate for code enforcement.” Is this the RCID had or completely new?

mkt12 hours ago

On what grounds?

WoundedDreamer13 hours ago

Sounds nefarious... I would never! 😇

mmascari14 hours ago

Exactly how large a budget did you expect to see for "parks, pools, community programs, and other things things" for a city with a population of 24? The city could buy every resident, all 24 of them across all ages including kids, season passes to Disney Water Parks for less than it would cost to maintain one plot of grass with a playground and a picnic gazebo. For that matter, they could buy them each a Disney Incredi-Pass too, and it would still be more fiscally responsible than maintaining a community pool, plot of grass park, or other recreation programs. This falls under the same umbrella as things that are concerned with the "taxpayers of RCID", the "citizens of Lake Buena Vista" being the concern that they're being treated unfairly. It's a statement designed to convey that someone who is just like the reader and happens to live in the jurisdiction is getting a poor deal because of big bad Disney taking advantage of them. When that's just not true. There isn't some mystery population that lives within the district or the two cities. There are only entities that entered into it knowing full well how it was structured, and there is amazingly few of them. It is a misdirection designed to deceive and create a false message that sounds true.

lazyboy97o14 hours ago

Disneyland Forward is basically about expanding the area where to Disney has more free reign. One difference too is that the Disneyland Resort and surrounding Anaheim Resort District are specific, uniquely crafted zoning overlay areas whereas both portions of Universal Orlando Resort utilize pre-existing planned development zoning categories. You are correct though that Disney is having to do much more to get their zoning approval. One of things I’ve notice in this conversation and others is that a lot of people who think a situation is not democratic enough tend to do so because processes, organization and outcomes are different. This sort of flies in the face of plurality which should result in different processes and outcomes in different localities. The people of Orange County, Florida don’t seem as concerned about development of the attractions area as the people of Anaheim. If anything, the biggest “controversies” over proposed development in the past decade or so have been manufactured by Universal. Remember when Universal created a phony citizens group to oppose the Polercoaster? That group raised suspicion and the result was the county revealing that Universal was not only behind the group but also was buying up a bunch of land that they wanted rezoned. More recently Universal was also behind the opposition to Brightline receiving permission to build along FL-417.

peter1143514 hours ago

Considering your novel earlier suggested numerous illegal actions I don’t think anyone should place much importance on your legal predictions.

WoundedDreamer15 hours ago

Fair enough. I'll take that as a signal to step back from this thread for now. I've pretty much stated my opinions and additional points would just be beating a dead horse. I do predict Disney's demise in the courts. They will get clobbered. But other than that, I think I've said my peace. Adieu

Twirlnhurl16 hours ago

I was thinking more about Disneyland Forward, which is including a lot more public outreach than Universal needed to do to entitle their South campus with Orange County. But perhaps I am misunderstanding the intent of the Disneyland Forward effort?

UNCgolf16 hours ago

So if they became anti-poetry, they'd no longer be allowed to develop?

lazyboy97o16 hours ago

Universal Orlando Resort and Disneyland Resort actually are pretty similar. Both are essentially a version of a planned development where the pro poetry owner is free to develop the property. The Eastern Gateway project had to go through development review because it was new property outside of Disney’s holdings when the zoning for the Disneyland Resort was established. There was no development review of subsequent projects like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway or the new Disneyland Hotel tower because Disney is free to do theme park resort stuff largely as they desire. Even part of Disney’s argument for the Eastern Gateway was the threat of all of the additional traffic to be caused by Galaxy’s Edge which was expected to draw huge crowds and didn’t need development review.

mkt16 hours ago

So this warrants eliminating their representation on a district level?

Twirlnhurl17 hours ago

Just because it is conceivable that Orlando's theme parks could survive higher levels of taxation, doesn't mean that they should be subject to it. RCID allowed Disney to charge itself a higher tax rate to get better infrastructure for itself. But I a not aware of any theory of good governance that suggests that local governments should extract the maximum rents from their constituents. Even if that was the will of the people (I don't think it is) doesn't make it right or good governance. The process that Universal goes through to get planning permission from Orlando or Orange County has very little in common with that of Disneyland, because the jurisdictions Universal has to work with have a much better framework for evaluating the the projects of their constituents. (The following is a somewhat off-topic rant, so maybe disregard?) In general, public engagement for planning is very unproductive. The public rarely has any valuable input. Usually you don't get any comments of substance from the public until a specific design is presented. But land use regulation cannot be determined ad-hoc for each individual project (by definition, that wouldn't be planning). In some cases, property owners may choose to enter into an agreement to let a specific party have that kind of input (like when I purchased a home in a deed-restricted development granting the right to let the HOA make arbitrary rules about how I use my property). But city or county planning don't work that way. Public engagement for development review by definition cannot be representative of the public--the project will be built in the future, impacting future neighbors--so public engagement is more like arbitrary discussion with busybodies. The idea that the people who show up at the meetings today are representative of the public today is laughable--public engagement engages people with a weird hobby of going to public meetings with their free time, not a representative sample. But even if it was possible for you to engage with the public in a representative way, it would be representative of the people here today, not the people who will be here in 5 to 10 years when the project is built. Every week, the population of greater Orlando increases by over 1,000 new people. Are you really going to ask people in Ohio, New Jersey, and Columbia who haven't even decided that they want to live here to have a say? So let's not fetishize public engagement as it relates to planning. Urban planners do valuable work determining the impacts to infrastructure, the environment, and neighboring property owners. Public engagement rarely adds constructively to that process. (End rant. But feel free to update your opinion of everything I say based on the above. I know that my perspective is unpopular.) I am not certain that it added value to Brightline. Personally, I believe it dramatically reduced the odds that Brightline will ever provide service beyond MCO. It certainly increased the required taxpayer contribution to the required infrastructure, if it were ever to happen. But I hope I am wrong and it still eventually gets built. Just because Sunrail might not use the station doesn't mean that Brightline won't. A lot of people get hung up on the idea that Brightline is an intercity-service provider. This is true, but it is not a requirement for all future services. Brightline can choose to offer whatever service they want to. So if they wanted to provide a frequent commuter transit service, the only thing that would get in their way is the signaling and equipment, which they control. If Disney were to sell off Disney Springs to each of the individual operating participants, Animal Kingdom to Sea World Parks and Entertainment, Hollywood Studios to Comcast, Magic Kingdom to OLC, Epcot to Six Flags, and auction off each resort so some were owned by Marriott, Hilton, Harris Rosen, and others, would anything the RCID has built and maintained be something a local government wouldn't be happy to support and maintain from property taxes from this diverse ownership group? Within its Jurisdiction, RCID has built quality infrastructure not very different from what you would expect if it were controlled by dozens of operators. At the end of the day, RCID operates urban infrastructure to serve the uses in its district. I don't know what you would expect to be different or more equitable to the region if it were arranged differently.

peter1143518 hours ago

Which is itself another of the many issues with the current set up. The district as it exists today assesses a tax rate far higher than they would be legally allowed to if not for it having previously been approved by those in the district. But now those in the district have no say in how those taxes are managed or spent and the district has zero accountability to those in the district.

mikejs7818 hours ago

No, it can't. Orange county doesnt have the same taxing ability as Reedy Creek. They are limited to a 10% rate by the FL Constitution. Reedy Creek as a special district doesn't have such a limitation, which was a factor in the bond agreements.