Attorneys representing the district under Governor Ron DeSantis’ control aim to prevent his appointees from facing depositions in the state’s lawsuit against Disney. The move arrives amidst the legal clash between Walt Disney World and Governor DeSantis’ appointees. The lawsuit centers on the district’s governance overseeing Disney World, which saw a leadership change after Disney’s opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

District attorneys have filed a motion for a protective order to halt DeSantis-appointed board members from participating in videotaped depositions requested by Disney’s legal team. The motion invokes the “apex doctrine,” a legal principle followed in several states, including Florida, which stipulates that high-ranking government officials should only be deposed if all other avenues for obtaining information have been exhausted.

The argument made by district attorneys suggests Disney has not proven that individual board members possess unique, relevant knowledge justifying bypassing the apex doctrine. They contend that Disney’s attempt to depose all board members amounts to harassment. Statements from the board members themselves stress that undergoing depositions would hinder their ability to fulfill their duties and divert resources from overseeing the district’s operations.

Disney’s notice to depose six current and former DeSantis-appointed board members is part of the discovery process for the lawsuit. Disney claims that the district has obstructed efforts to obtain necessary documents and information, prompting a public records lawsuit earlier this year. Since DeSantis assumed control of the district, there has been significant staff turnover, with concerns about politicization cited as a reason. The recent departures of the district’s administrator and the DeSantis-appointed board chairman are notable inclusions of the staff turnover. 

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The conflict between DeSantis and Disney dates back to 2022 when Disney opposed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, leading to legislative action by DeSantis. Subsequently, DeSantis replaced the district’s board with his appointees. Disney then sued DeSantis and his appointees, alleging violations of free speech rights. While a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier this year, Disney has since appealed.

Before the change in leadership, Disney supporters on the district’s board entered agreements with Disney regarding control over design and construction at Disney World. The new DeSantis appointees contested these agreements, leading to counterclaims from Disney seeking validation and enforcement. The legal battle between Disney and DeSantis-appointed board members also has broader implications beyond the immediate governance dispute. It reflects the intersection of politics and corporate interests in Florida, where major companies like Disney hold significant influence.

The lawsuit’s outcome could impact similar disputes in other states where corporations clash with government officials over contentious issues. Legal experts are closely monitoring the proceedings to assess potential precedents and implications for future cases. The conflict highlights the tangled intricacies of governance in modern society, where the boundaries between public and private interests often blur and produce complications. It prompts questions about the roles of corporations and government entities in shaping public policy and administering essential services.

Ultimately, resolving the legal dispute between Disney and DeSantis-appointed officials will influence the future of governance and corporate influence in Florida and potentially elsewhere. Stakeholders on all sides are closely observing developments and preparing for the next steps as the significant legal battle continues.