Disney asks judge to throw state Reedy Creek lawsuit out

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Attorneys for Disney and the Reedy Creek district – now known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District – met in court for the first major hearing since the saga began last year, as Disney asked an Orange County judge to toss the state-level lawsuit filed by its former district.


Friday’s hearing was mostly procedural, with little effect on the fate of the district itself. It was also very technical.

In simple terms, the company’s lawyers argued the state-level lawsuit was made irrelevant by lawmakers this past spring. When the lawsuit was filed, the district was asking the judge if it should abide by agreements Disney and the district struck before board members appointed by Gov. DeSantis took over.

Lawmakers, stung by Disney’s decision to hand the district’s major powers over to the company, passed a law ordering the district to ignore those contracts.

READ: Disney hopes Florida judge will dismiss lawsuit over improvement district control

Attorney Dan Petrocelli, representing the company as lead counsel, said the new law made the district’s lawsuit moot.

“There’s nothing this court can do with this case that would have any practical effect whatsoever,” Petrocelli told the judge.

He also asked the judge to pause the case while an ongoing federal lawsuit centered around Disney’s free speech rights was being fought, if she ruled against the company.

READ: DeSantis: Legislature will revoke development agreement passed by former Reedy Creek board

The district’s attorneys argued that the judge should keep the case alive, saying the state case should be prioritized and – if a federal judge rules in favor of the governor’s takeover – the judge will have to decide which entity should get the power.

“Those agreements were not valid because the procedures Florida law required to be followed were not followed,” Alan Lawson, representing the district, explained.

Independent attorneys contacted by WFTV Thursday night said they believed Disney would prevail in its quest for dismissal, but the state would have the opportunity to re-file its lawsuit on slightly different grounds.

READ: New Reedy Creek board looks to reverse control deal with Disney

The judge asked both sides to write motions as if she ruled in their favor by Wednesday, July 19.

She did not indicate which way she was leaning.

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