Federal Judge Dismisses Reedy Creek Lawsuit Against DeSantis

By Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.
May 10, 2022 Updated: May 12, 2022

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the dissolution of the Walt Disney Company’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 25,000-acre self-governing area in the state’s Orange and Osceola counties.

The lawsuit was filed by William Sanchez last week on behalf of three Orange and Osceola County residents. Sanchez is a Miami lawyer and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The plaintiffs named in the lawsuit—Michael and Edward Foronda, of Kissimmee, and Vivian Gorsky of Orange County—said the dissolution of Reedy Creek violated a state law called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

And added the legal action also breached a contractual obligation with Reedy Creek’s bondholders and Disney’s First Amendment rights.

DeSantis was listed as a defendant, along with Secretary of State Laurel Lee and Jim Zingale, executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue.

U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in her order that the suit was dismissed for several reasons, including the “federal court’s lack of standing over state issues” and because the “law does not go into effect until July 2023.”

Altonaga wrote that the three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, “do not plausibly allege they have suffered any concrete injury as a result of the alleged violation of Disney’s First Amendment rights, and nothing in the complaint shows plaintiffs have a close relationship with Disney.”

She continued, “The new law does not apply to them, they do not allege direct harm as a result of the challenged law, and they do not plausibly allege any credible threat of direct harm in the future.”

The plaintiffs’ claim to stand in the case, she said, was that the dissolution of the district “might result in financial harm to plaintiffs by virtue of a tax increase that has not yet been enacted and that indirect and highly speculative alleged injury cannot support federal jurisdiction.

“Again, it is worth emphasizing—the bill does not apply to plaintiffs at all.”

In a written statement, Sanchez said that he will refile on behalf of the plaintiffs by May 16.

“This is just the beginning of the battle, as we are attempting to achieve justice for Florida taxpayers,” Sanchez wrote in his statement.

The law that took away Disney’s self-governing district was signed in April by DeSantis.

Critics have alleged that the law that was enacted is in retaliation for Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Others have alleged that local taxpayers could be forced to pick up the estimated $1 billion of outstanding debt as well as other obligations that could result in a tax increase for residents.

However, DeSantis maintains that Orange County homeowners will not face a tax increase or any other negative consequences as a result of the new legislation that will not take effect until June 2023.

The Epoch Times reached out to the governor’s office for a response, but it did not respond by press time.

Sanchez said he is not ready to give up.

“This is just the beginning of the battle, as we are attempting to achieve justice for Florida taxpayers.”

Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.