Strawser v. State of Alabama
ORDER granting 76 Motion to Amend Complaint. Signed by Judge Callie V. S. Granade on 3/18/2015. copies to parties. (sdb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JAMES N. STRAWSER, et al.,
LUTHER STRANGE, in his official
capacity as Attorney General for
the State of Alabama, DON DAVIS,
in his official capacity as Probate
Judge of Mobile County, Alabama,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-0424-CG-C
This action is before the court on Plaintiffs’ motion for (1) leave to file second
amended complaint adding additional parties and plaintiff and defendant classes
(Doc. 76), Defendant Luther Strange’s response in opposition to the motion (Doc.
78), and Defendant Don Davis’ opposition to the motion (Doc. 90). For the reasons
explained below, the court finds that Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to amend should be
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that leave to amend pleadings
“shall be freely given when justice so requires.” See FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a). The
Eleventh Circuit recognized that Rule 15(a) “severely restricts” a district court's
discretion to deny leave to amend. Sibley v. Lando, 437 F.3d 1067, 1073 (11th Cir.
2005). “Unless a substantial reason exists to deny leave to amend, the discretion of
the District Court is not broad enough to permit denial.” Florida Evergreen Foliage
v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Co., 470 F.3d 1036, 1041 (11th Cir. 2006) (citation
omitted). That said, leave to amend can be properly denied under circumstances of
“undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated
failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to
the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of
amendment.” Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc. v. Florida Mowing and Landscape
Service, Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1241 (11th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).
Defendant Strange contends that this court should deny the motion for leave
to amend and take no further action in this case because this lawsuit has been
pending for many months as a suit between individual Plaintiffs and Defendants
and those Plaintiffs have achieved that relief. Attorney General Strange argues
that Plaintiffs cannot now convert this lawsuit into a class action between an illdefined class of plaintiffs and a class of 68 defendants, very few of which reside
within the Southern District of Alabama. Strange contends that the court should
wait until June when the United States Supreme Court will resolve the
constitutionality of same-sex marriage. However, as this court recently ruled with
regard to a motion by Judge Davis, the Defendants in this case have not shown that
a stay is warranted. Defendant Strange has also failed to provide any authority
showing why this court cannot or should not allow Plaintiffs to amend their
complaint to add parties and assert class allegations. Although Defendant Strange
objects to the amendment “at this late date,” this case has only progressed to the
preliminary injunction stage and although the current Plaintiffs have apparently all
received marriage licenses the licenses are of little value if they are not recognized
as valid in Alabama. Under the circumstances, allowing the amendment is not
likely to significantly delay resolution of the case for the current parties. The
requested amendment will not disturb any schedule set by the Court in this case.
Judge Davis asserts that the court should not allow the addition of the new
Plaintiffs and further asserts that Plaintiffs have not met the requirements for class
certification. Joinder of additional plaintiffs is permitted if:
(A) they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative with
respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences; and
(B) any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.
FED. R. CIV. P. 20(a)(1). Courts are encouraged to entertain “…the broadest possible
scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and
remedies is strongly encouraged.” United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S.
715, 724, (1966). “Rule 20 permits ‘the joinder of a person who has some interest in
an action ..., even when that interest is not so strong as to require his joinder’ under
Rule 19.” Hagan v. Rogers, 570 F.3d 146, 153 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Field v.
Volkswagenwerk AG, 626 F.2d 293, 299 (3d Cir. 1980)). In the instant case, the
proposed new plaintiffs, like the current plaintiffs, are same-sex couples that seek
to marry and have their marriages recognized. Their claims present the common
legal question of whether Defendants’ enforcement of Alabama’s laws excluding
same-sex couples from marriage and refusing to recognize their marriages violate
the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. As such, the court
finds that joinder of the new Plaintiffs is appropriate.
As to Judge Davis’ argument that Plaintiffs have not met the requirements
for class certification, the court finds that Plaintiffs have asserted sufficient
allegations for the court to allow the amendment. To the extent Judge Davis’
objection to class certification is offered in opposition to Plaintiffs’ motion to amend,
Davis’ argument is essentially that the amendment would be futile. An amendment
is futile when a claim as proposed would be subject to dismissal. See Hall v. United
Ins. Co. of Am., 367 F.3d 1255, 1263 (11th Cir.2004). To survive a motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
It is well-settled that a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing all
prerequisites under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure before a class action is
proper in the district court. Gilchrist v. Bolger, 733 F.2d 1551, 1556 (11th Cir.1984)
(citations omitted). “Mere repetition of the language of Rule 23(a) is not sufficient.
There must be an adequate statement of the basic facts to indicate that each
requirement of the rule is fulfilled.” In re Am. Med. Sys. Inc., 75 F.3d 1069, 1079
(6th Cir.1996) (citation omitted). However, the Plaintiffs’ motion for class
certification is not yet ripe. Under Plaintiffs’ motion to amend, the court need only
consider whether Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged class claims. Thus, although
the court may dismiss class allegations “[w]here it is facially apparent from the
pleadings that there is no ascertainable class,” John v. Nat'l Sec. Fire & Cas. Co.,
501 F.3d 443, 445 (5th Cir.2007), the court finds that the Plaintiffs in this case have
alleged adequate facts to support a potential class claim and the court will not
engage in a detailed and rigorous analysis of the class claims until all of the current
parties have had the opportunity to oppose or support the motion for class
There being no substantial reason to deny leave to amend, the court must
allow the amendment. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a second
amended complaint (Doc. 76) is hereby GRANTED.
DONE and ORDERED this 18th day of March, 2015.
/s/ Callie V. S. Granade
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Attorney General Strange has been given until Monday, March 23, 2015 to
respond to Plaintiffs’ motion to certify class (Doc. 89).
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