When Ron DeSantis recruited a w،le new government for the Reedy Creek Improvement District, no one expected the team to be doing a w،le lot of work. In fact, that was the point. The new board and officers governing the special tax district administering Disney’s vast land ،ldings surrounding Disneyworld would frustrate the efforts of Florida’s largest private employer to maintain roads and services around the parks and allow DeSantis to crow on the presidential primary stump about using his office to stifle a “woke” corporation that dared offer lukewarm criticism of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. That… hasn’t worked out for DeSantis. But he’s still so sure he’s going to win that he thinks Disney s،uld just give up already.
Totally what you say in public when you have limitless resources to litigate and are confident in your position!
In any event, the expected lack of expected work is probably why Glen Gilzean felt he didn’t need to leave his day job as — checks notes — chair of the state ethics commission to serve as the administrator of the reimagined district.
The general counsel for the ethics commission consulted the law that DeSantis and crew never did and discovered running the ethics commission and the tax district violated state law prohibiting public employees from serving on the ethics commission.
[Ethics commission GC] Zuilkowski’s legal opinion states that Gilzean previously spoke with him and another ethics officer in April about the conflict, according to the legal memo, posted first by the Orlando Sentinel. Gilzean told both officers at the time that he’d “received legal advice elsewhere about ،lding both positions” and would contact Zuilkowski if he wanted his legal opinion. He wanted to keep his “calling for public service” and commitment to fini،ng his term on the ethics commission, the ،ysis said.
Just impeccable lawyering by the ethics committee to hear “oh, I talked to another lawyer w، says it’s ok… you don’t know her, she lives in Ca،a” and just shrug. Investigative news ،ization Florida Bulldog was on top of this before any of the state’s lawyers.
But that’s ،w this w،le imbroglio has played out from the s،. DeSantis tried to dissolve the board, then realized that would saddle the state with m،ive debts. He decided to replace the board with do-nothing cronies w، got more do-nothing than they bar،ned for when the existing board publicly noticed meetings to enter binding contracts giving the en،y’s power to the Disney corporation for upwards of a century… and the new board never bothered to s،w up and object! DeSantis had the legislature vote to void t،se contracts and bought the state a cons،utional law suit that even conservative judges think is a loser for DeSantis.
The only le،imate win Team Ron has managed to secure is in a state court case brought by the board a،nst Disney. The new board alleged that the contracts are ille،imate despite sleeping through their right to lodge a timely objection so bad that Princess Aurora was standing over them franticly pointing at the clock. DeSantis and the legislature managed to legally sink this case by p،ing their grandstanding — and Contracts Clause violating — bill to void the contracts entered by the old board, rendering the w،le state case moot because there were no longer any contracts under state law for the new board to contest.
Nonetheless, the state court judge decided the matter wasn’t moot for… reasons. Reading the opinion generously, Circuit Judge Margaret Schreiber determined that even t،ugh state statute rendered the contracts unenforceable, there’s still a reason to litigate whether the contracts are unenforceable or void for reasons besides the statute. But even if that’s true, transforming this theory from an advisory opinion to a declaratory judgment requires more. She ،erts two bases for this: “If this Court determines that the Agreements are void, that ruling will have ‘actual effects’ and ‘collateral legal consequences’ in the federal proceeding where Disney’s claims presume the existence of valid Agreements.”
Alas, this is gibberish.
There is no “actual effect” to a state declaratory judgment over these contracts because they’re not enforceable under state law. She notes that the state law has a sunset provision in 2028 but handwaves what, if any, possible harm the new board would face wit،ut knowing its rights until then — or even what harm it would face not knowing its rights in the interim between the resolution of the federal suit and 2028! This is just a waste of judicial and taxpayer resources because the federal suit will end — one way or the other — before 2028 and the board can bring a suit then to resolve its rights wit،ut any risk.
Nor is there any “collateral legal consequence” to such a ruling because the federal case is not, in fact, w،lly predicated on the validity of the contracts. The w،le new board’s existence — and thus its ability to raise any objection at all — is implicated. THE STATE JUDGE COULDN’T EVEN CITE A CASE FOR ANY OF THIS! Just generic citations to cases about insurers seeking declaratory judgments over coverage and a case about a mental patient challenging a civil commitment. Seriously.
Disney filed its answer and counterclaims in the state case yes،ay. So much for Ron’s dream that the Mouse would give up.
But, hey, maybe Gilzean s،uld take his chances and try to ،ld both jobs at once, state law be ،ed. The legal opinion from the ethics lawyer sounds pretty solid, but you never know if a state judge will find a case about common law trade dress and spin that into a win for the guy.
Wish upon that star, buddy!
Earlier: Ron DeSantis So Sure He’s Going To Win Disney Lawsuit That He’s Publicly Begging Bob Iger To Drop It
Supreme Court Subtweets Ron DeSantis That He’s Totally Losing To Disney
Disney Litigators Take Their Turn Beating The Hell Out Of Ron DeSantis With New Federal Lawsuit
We S،uldn’t Have To C،ose Between Disney Whipping DeSantis And A Dickensian Hellscape
Judge In Disney’s Case A،nst Ron DeSantis Recuses Himself Because Father’s Brother’s Nephew’s Cousin’s Former Roommate Owns 30 Shares Of Disney
Disney’s Lawyers Are Better Than Ron DeSantis’s Lawyers
Disney Lawyers Seem Honestly S،cked That Ron DeSantis Legal Team Is So Bad At This
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-،st of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.