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Disney sues DeSantis and Florida over Reedy Creek District Control

Disney sues DeSantis and Florida over Reedy Creek District Control

Disney alleges DeSantis’ attempts to wrestle back control of Disney’s unusual state-within-a-state arrangement is “a targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech….”

The State of Florida passed legislation taking back control of the Reedy Creek District where Disney operates, effectively ending Disney’s unusual state-within-a-state autonomy. On the eve of the legislation taking effect, the District (controlled by Disney) passed restrictive covenants preserving their autonomy and nullifying the impact of the legislation.

Disney and anti-DeSantis Republicans crowed about how Disney had outsmarted DeSantis. But it’s not clear that Disney complied with all the legal requirements, including mailed notice to neighbors, to pass the restrictive covenants; DeSantis vowed to challenge Disney’s moves including through a new District resolution voiding the restrictive covenants and possible new legislation.

So now Disney has filed suit in federal court for the Northern District of Florida. The case is assigned to Chief Judge Mark Walker, who has ruled against other legislation promoted by DeSantis, such as the “Stop Woke Act,” using bombastic language including an analogy to George Orwell.

Here are the pleadings:

Exhibit A – Development Agreement
Exhibit B – Restrictive Covenants

The Complaint focuses heavily on Disney’s free speech rights, framing everything that has happened as retaliation for its opposition to the various legislative initiatives from DeSantis taking on “wokeness.”

From the Complaint:

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.

DeSantis’s Office Deputy Press Secretary issued an initial reaction:

In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for DeSantis said: “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.”

Nikki Haley pulled a punk move in reaction, saying Disney should move to South Carolina:




Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Remember the first judge’s ruling is not final there is an appeals process.

Please delete comment it was made in reaction to a spam post that has since been taken down.

Well you have to hand it to the groomers, they don’t give up so easily.

So now DeSantis is the Deep State and Disney is Trump?

Seems Article 4, Section 4 would not allow “company towns” set apart from the laws of the state in which it resides.

BierceAmbrose | April 26, 2023 at 3:04 pm

Now do IRS “enforcement” based on political speech. Can they get the same judge?

    PrincetonAl in reply to BierceAmbrose. | April 26, 2023 at 3:43 pm


    This lawsuit isn’t really about speech, the real litigation will happen in other forums.

    Outside of a lucky judge draw, this isn’t going anywhere.

    This lawsuit is about setting a narrative that is helpful in campaigning and media to drive an anti-DeSantis message.

      natdj in reply to PrincetonAl. | April 26, 2023 at 8:22 pm

      Hmmm, not quite true here in Florida. Most voters and taxpayers like myself here are not keen on allowing Disney to get anymore preferential treatment and exclusive contracts and agreements that do not sunset. We all notice how no corporation here in the Sunshine State is supporting Disneys exclusive deals. Neither do we the taxpayers. Ultimately, Disney loses either in court, by state statute and by Florida taxpayers not giving our money to them when so much is available here in way of attractions.

      Danny in reply to PrincetonAl. | April 26, 2023 at 8:23 pm

      Exactly there is an appeals process this judges ruling is most definitely not final.

CaliforniaJimbo | April 26, 2023 at 3:05 pm

I’ll say it again. Desantis and Iger need to sit down outside of cameras and press releases and work out their differences.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair | April 26, 2023 at 3:22 pm

On the eve of the legislation taking effect, the District (controlled by Disney) passed restrictive covenants preserving their autonomy and nullifying the impact of the legislation.

That can’t be legal – and not because of any technicalities, but based on the fact that it is abusing governmental power (that will soon be gone) in order to retain extraordinary control of something that no other Florida person or company enjoys.

Of course, there is a lot of stuff that goes on in lame duck sessions that any reasonable person would consider completely illegal and as unethical and immoral as things come, but this country has tended to allow lame duck entities to retain such powers even as they are so clearly destructive and work against every bit of the Rule Of Law and society.

2smartforlibs | April 26, 2023 at 3:34 pm

See what happens when you “donate” for years. At some point, those politicians are no longer in office and it would seem law is back in style in Fl.

A loud noise was reportedly heard coming from Forest Lawn Cemetary where Walt Disney is buried. It appears he rolled over in his grave.

Hey, Disney. Put down the shovel. You’ve hit magma.

I can see the humor and intent in Haley’s comment. She is (of course) not serious, but putting forward that SC is open and business-friendly. That is worth a few million dollars worth of businesses moving there from far *less* business-friendly states up north. No doubt that if Disney tried to open a park in SC, they would be operating on far more restrictive rules that even the new District under new management is permitting.

Florida: We’ll pass legislation to create Reedy Creek District so Disney can govern itself.

Disney: Yippee. We’ve been waiting for you to give us permission. Thanks.

Florida later: Uh, we’re gonna pass legislation to repeal Reedy Creek District.

Disney: NO. We decide, you effin fascists!

****some one needs an azzwhoopin’.

The Reedy Creek fiefdom was created by the Legislature and dissolved by the Legislature. Arguing that Disney should be given treatment not given to any other corporation in Florida doesn’t seem like a winning strategy.

Good luck on that lawsuit.

Nikki Haley is such a fraud.

A few words now and then as ambassador to the UN won’t make up for her RINO Republican record.

This action demonstrates that despite all the slavering liberal headlines about Disney ‘owning’ DeSantis with their laughable power transfer, Disney knows they’ve royally screwed up and are now just frantically trying to stop the bleeding.

retiredcantbefired | April 26, 2023 at 6:23 pm

Where does Donald Trump stand on

(1) Disney vs. Florida
(2) Bud Lite vs. lots of beer consumers
(3) Bringing in Fauci and Birx (and Pfizer and Moderna) to set policy during the pandemic?

Or has Trump just chosen to run against DeSantis from the left?

    CommoChief in reply to retiredcantbefired. | April 26, 2023 at 7:44 pm

    That seems to be his approach, at least on social and culture war issues. Trump is a old school NYC liberal. That is distinct from leftist but it certainly isn’t reflective of where the center right populist movement is today.

    Trump is a little hesitant on many social issues or he would have been making strong, unequivocal statements in support of Parents rights, 2A, the Dobbs decision and against the trans ideology, CRT and the rest of the woke weirdo things we are opposed to.

    Instead he has chosen to stay silent or worse chime in seemingly taking the side of AB and Disney. Don’t forget his not great 2A actions as POTUS. As good as he is on trade and international relations he is a bit weak on social issues and tends to line up on the side of big business and during Covid on the side of big govt as well.

      healthguyfsu in reply to CommoChief. | April 26, 2023 at 8:10 pm

      There are no cries from his loyal subjects about immediately condemning any of this nonsense. Instead, his little puppet Haley takes a jab.

      Their loyalty logic is so inconsistent with conservatism that it’s laughable.

      What DeSantis is doing is restoring the conservative powers of government as they are supposed to be…in other words, he is essentially breaking a crony capitalist fiefdom. Trump, if he cared to be conservative, would be all over this, even if it were to claim he’d do a better job of reeling in Disney.

      GravityOpera in reply to CommoChief. | April 26, 2023 at 10:12 pm

      Trump already made his position quite clear. He is in favor of the moral, social, and cultural collapse of the USA.
      Trump displaying LGBTAZSXLKJ flag at the 2016 Republican National Convention

      Danny in reply to CommoChief. | April 27, 2023 at 3:15 pm

      I respect you and we agree with each other a lot more than with corporate Republicans but as far as finding a movement of like minded people, where are they exactly? This isn’t meant as an insult but I genuinely have not found any evidence that there is a populist right (the term exists but it seems to just mean “Only Trump”).

      Trump backing Disney hasn’t turned his fans from him it has made his fans turn on DeSantis and declaring their support for Disney as a third alternate compromise (as set against Nikki Haley’s support for Disney).

      We haven’t even gotten past “Government is always the problem and our only solution is making it smaller and cutting taxes” yet.

      At issue is you can’t be populist while that is your paradigm (ordinary Americans either pay nothing while receiving benefits, or receive significantly more benefits than they pay in tax). You can’t really be socially conservative either because failure to stand up for conservatives against radical corporations means those corporations will shape the culture.

      I agree we need a movement but as far as I could tell we just don’t have one yet.

      Part of what makes DeSantis a good fit for me is he actually is doing exactly what you would want from a “populist” and is doing so effectively, without alienating slices of the electorate and while remaining a viable candidate, and his elevation would push the Republican Party in the direction I think you would agree is correct.

Here in Florida, Disney should be careful in what they wish for. because they may get it. Their argument is ultimately the bottom line. If they continue fighting and giving the middle finger to the governor they are also doing it to we the taxpayers here in the Sunshine State. This is an ultimate abuse of Corporate Welfare that should have been pulled years and I don’t know one person here who wants their taxpayer money being used to subsidize corporations like Disney who have exclusive deals given to them that never sunset. Bring it on Disney and it will cost your bottom line greatly!

is it Mickey Haley or Mikki Haley?

You Tuber by the handle Legal Mindset is a good follow on this matter. He is an expert in this type of law unlike most of the talking head attorneys who have no experience in that specialty.

caseoftheblues | April 27, 2023 at 5:37 am

Hmmm… so can we and conservative groups in general start suing the government and specific government officials for….. weaponization and targeted retaliation …, real question

Disney World has had special privileges not available to Sea World, Universal Studios, Gatorland, etc. since the 1960’s. Special treatment for a couple years to encourage investment “might” be justifiable, but not special treatment until after the last of King Charles III descendants dies!

I say shut Reedy Creek down now and put all its debts on Disney where they belong.