Judge dismisses Fla. taxpayer suit over planned dissolution of Reedy Creek district

U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga wrote that the suit was dismissed for several reasons, including the fact that the law does not take effect until 2023


Steven Lemongello
Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — A federal judge on Tuesday quickly dismissed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the dissolution of Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District.

The suit, filed last week by William Sanchez, a Miami lawyer and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, was on behalf of three residents of Orange and Osceola counties.

Disney World’s self-governing Reedy Creek Improvement District straddles two Florida counties and provides municipal services to landowners such as firefighting, EMS and public works
Disney World’s self-governing Reedy Creek Improvement District straddles two Florida counties and provides municipal services to landowners such as firefighting, EMS and public works (Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service)

The complaint claimed that Florida was violating a state law called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, as well as a contractual obligation with Reedy Creek’s bondholders and Disney’s First Amendment rights.

In her order, U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote 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, Michael and Edward Foronda of Kissimmee and Vivian Gorsky of Orange County, “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.”

The new law, she wrote, “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.”


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Their claim to standing in the case, she wrote, was that the elimination of the district “might result in financial harm to Plaintiffs by virtue of a tax increase that has not yet been enacted. 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 statement, Sanchez pledged that he will refile on behalf of the plaintiffs by next Monday.

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

The law abolishing Disney’s self-governing district was signed last month by DeSantis. Critics of the law, as well as DeSantis’ own comments attacking Disney, point to it being enacted in retaliation for Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s belated opposition to the so-called “don’t say gay law.”

Central Florida officials said local taxpayers could be forced to pick up the district’s $1 billion of outstanding debt and other obligations, resulting in a significant tax increase for residents.

But DeSantis insists Central Florida homeowners will not face higher tax bills or other negative consequences, but he has not released a plan explaining the dissolution would work.


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