Disney sues Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for 'campaign of government retaliation'

Apr 26, 2023 in "The Walt Disney Company"

Posted: Wednesday April 26, 2023 12:00pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis following today's board meeting of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District where it approved the motion to void Disney's agreements with Reedy Creek.

Named in the lawsuit alongside the Governor is the entire DeSantis appointed board of the new governing district. Law firms Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP of New York, O'Melveny & Myers LLP of Los Angeles, and Losey PLLC of Orlando Florida are acting as attorneys for Disney.

In the lawsuit, Disney asks the Court to:

  • Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it abrogates Disney’s rights in violation of the Contracts Clause;
  • Declare that the Legislative Declaration is an unlawful taking of Disney’s property rights without payment of just compensation in violation of the Takings Clause;
  • Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it was an arbitrary and irrational voiding of the Development Agreement and Restrictive Covenants in violation of the Due Process Clause;
  • Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it was enacted in retaliation for Disney’s speech in violation of the First Amendment;
  • Declare that the Contracts remain in effect and enforceable;
  • Declare that Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B are unlawful and unenforceable because they were enacted in retaliation for Disney’s political speech in violation of the First Amendment;
  • Issue an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Legislative Declaration;
  • Issue an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B;
  • Award Plaintiff its attorney’s fees and costs; and
  • Grant such other relief as this Court may deem just and pro

In a federal court filing with the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Florida, Disney says:

1. For more than half a century, Disney has made an immeasurable impact on Florida and its economy, establishing Central Florida as a top global tourist destination and attracting tens of millions of visitors to the State each year. People and families from every corner of the globe have traveled to Walt Disney World because of the unrivaled guest experience it provides and the deep emotional connection that generations of fans have with Disney's timeless stories and characters.

2. A targeted campaign of government retaliation-orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney's protected speech-now threatens Disney's business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.

3. Today's action is the latest strike: At the Governor's bidding, the State's oversight board has purported to "void" publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts, which had laid the foundation for billions of Disney's investment dollars and thousands of jobs. This government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional. But the Governor and his allies have made clear they do not care and will not stop. The Governor recently declared that his team would not only "void the development agreement"-just as they did today-but also planned "to look at things like taxes on the hotels," "tolls on the roads," "developing some of the property that the district owns" with "more amusement parks," and even putting a "state prison" next to Walt Disney World. "Who knows? I just think the possibilities are endless," he said.

4. 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.

You can read the entire 77 pages of the lawsuit here.

Following Disney's lawsuit filing today, the governor's office released a statment. "We are unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state. This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law."

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vikescaper1 day ago

I could see them doing something similar to what they did to the BVD and Hotel Plaza Blvd intersection years ago. They changed the alignment so Hotel Plaza Blvd flows directly into BVD.

maxairmike1 day ago

As long as they're widening all the way from BVD to Avalon (mainly to match lane alignments since the Sawgrass/Flemings connection is finally being fast tracked) and working with CFX to finally signalize the 429 interchange, anything less than that is like putting a normal size bandaid on a multi-inch gash. I think they also need to look at an alternative to the standard intersection for BVD and Western Way given the volume of traffic there, but that's probably more of a multi-phase project like World Drive, as it would likely involve modifications to the World Drive/BVD interchange alignment and flow, as well as the Coronado intersection in what I envision as a "good" solution.

Brian4 days ago

Widening Western Way? Yes, please! That road is a nightmare between 4-6pm, thanks to the s***storm known as I-4!

DCBaker4 days ago

Here's what was in the BoS packet:

JoeCamel4 days ago

Who's 100M is it?

GoneViral4 days ago

Imagine if anyone in this thread had said six months ago that the CFTOD would propose $100 million to fix WDW roads. They would have been laughed out of here.

Goofyernmost5 days ago

Whereas, I have no degree in legal jargon, can someone please splain what that all means and did it have any fundamental changes to how it has always been run in the past as per ss. 123.4567-8910, G.F. 🤔 :)

DCBaker6 days ago

The agenda and documents for the CFTOD Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, May 22 is now available at the link below. https://www.oversightdistrict.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/May-22-2024-BOS-Packet.pdf Here's what included for RESOLUTION NO. 661 (begins on page 270 in the PDF):

peter1143515 days ago

No. But it’s the start of the process

MR.Dis15 days ago

Does this mean a new agreement has been reached with Disney? I am trying to read between the lines on just what this is saying.

flyakite15 days ago

castlecake2.028 days ago


Stripes28 days ago

Has Disney/CFTOD continued to replace the purple direction signage with the new blue color scheme since CFTOD took over?

mkt28 days ago

You're right. The new document will be different. It will be "different" in the way that Chris Gaines was "different" from Garth Brooks or how the drummer from Nirvana is "different" from the singer of the Foo Fighters.