United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
N. SCOLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Seminole Tribe of Florida asks the Court to reconsider its
order (ECF No. 41) granting Defendant Leon Biegalski's
motion to dismiss the Tribe's complaint. For the reasons
that follow, the Court denies the
Tribe's motion (ECF No. 43) but, at the
same time, sua sponte clarifies limited aspects of the order
Standard of review
the interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial
resources, reconsideration of an order is an extraordinary
remedy that is employed sparingly.” Gipson v.
Mattox, 511 F.Supp.2d 1182, 1185 (S.D. Ala. 2007). A
motion to reconsider is “appropriate where, for
example, the Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has
made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to
the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of
reasoning but of apprehension.” Z.K. Marine Inc. v.
M/V Archigetis, 808 F.Supp. 1561, 1563 (S.D. Fla. 1992)
(Hoeveler, J.) (citation omitted). “Simply put, a party
may move for reconsideration only when one of the following
has occurred: an intervening change in controlling law, the
availability of new evidence, or the need to correct clear
error or prevent manifest injustice.” Longcrier v.
HL-A Co., 595 F.Supp.2d 1218, 1247 (S.D. Ala. 2008)
(quoting Vidinliev v. Carey Int'l, Inc., No.
CIV.A. 107CV762-TWT, 2008 WL 5459335, at *1 (N.D.Ga. Dec. 15,
2008)). However, “[s]uch problems rarely arise and the
motion to reconsider should be equally rare.” Z.K.
Marine, 808 F.Supp. at 1563 (citation omitted).
Certainly if any of these situations arise, a court has broad
discretion to reconsider a previously issued order. Absent
any of these conditions, however, a motion to reconsider is
not ordinarily warranted.
specifically, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), under
which the Tribe claims to be proceeding, permits a motion to
alter or amend a judgment. “The only grounds for
granting a Rule 59 motion, ” however, “are newly-
discovered evidence or manifest errors of law or fact.”
Arthur v. King, 500 F.3d 1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2007)
(internal quotations omitted). That is, “[a] Rule 59(e)
motion cannot be used to relitigate old matters, raise
argument or present evidence that could have been raised
prior to the entry of judgment.” Id.
Tribe is a federally recognized Indian tribe with
reservations throughout Florida. In a prior case, in 2012,
the Tribe sought declaratory and injunctive relief against
Marshall Stranburg, the then interim executive director of
Florida's Department of Revenue, complaining that
Florida's rental and utility taxes were being applied to
the Tribe in violation of federal Indian law. Seminole
Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 49 F.Supp.3d 1095, 1096-97
(S.D. Fla. 2014) (Scola, J.) (“Seminole
I”), aff'd in part, rev'd in part sub
nom. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Stranburg, 799 F.3d
1324 (11th Cir. 2015). This Court agreed with the Tribe,
granting summary judgment in its favor on all of its claims.
Seminole I, 49 F.Supp.3d at 1097. Stranburg
appealed, however, securing a reversal of the Court's
judgment on the utility tax but not the rental tax. The
Eleventh Circuit found the Court had “erred in placing
the legal incidence of the Utility Tax on the Tribe.”
Seminole, 799 F.3d at 1353, cert. denied sub
nom. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Biegalski, 136 S.Ct.
2480 (2016). Instead, the Eleventh Circuit concluded the
legal incidence of the utility tax “falls on the
non-Indian utility company” and, further, its
application, based on the record before the court, was not
preempted by federal law-either in whole or in part.
Id. at 1352, 53.
remand of the case back to this Court from the Eleventh
Circuit, Stranburg moved for the entry of judgment. The Tribe
objected, contending it should be permitted to present
additional evidence and argument establishing the utility
tax's preemption with respect to fourteen specified
activities. The Court was not persuaded by the Tribe's
position and entered final summary judgment in
Stranburg's favor. The Tribe did not appeal that
judgment. Thereafter, however, the Tribe filed the instant
suit, against Biegalski, the current executive director of
Florida's Department of Revenue, again seeking injunctive
relief and a declaratory judgment that Florida's
imposition of the utility tax on the Tribe's use of
electricity on its reservations or other property is
preempted by federal law. (“Seminole
II”). However, in the instant case, rather than
reference the Tribe's electricity use generally, as to
“every activity it conducts on Tribal Land, ”
like it did in Seminole I, the Tribe here narrowed
its focus, specifying instead fourteen discrete activities in
which it uses electricity: law enforcement; education
activities; medical health and fire rescue services; family
and youth counseling; water and sanitary management; road
construction and maintenance; housing activities; culture
preservation; leasing activities; forestry and wildlife
management; agricultural and livestock grazing activities;
rock mining; Indian gaming; and gaming-related economic
activities. Finding the claims in Seminole II
subject to claim preclusion, based on the adjudication of the
claims in Seminole I, the Court granted
Biegalski's motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 41.) That is the
order the Tribe now asks the Court to reconsider.
Tribe's motion rests on various alleged manifest errors
of both law and fact in the Court's order. Specifically,
says the Tribe, the Court: (1) mischaracterized the
Tribe's claim as set forth in Seminole I; (2)
misinterpreted the Eleventh Circuit's opinion in the
appeal of Seminole I; (3) misapplied the test for
determining whether the claims in Seminole II were
indeed precluded by the adjudication of the claims in
Seminole I; and (4) incorrectly declined to apply
the “manifest injustice” exception to the
application of claim preclusion in this case.
respect to the Tribe's first allegation of error, it
appears the Tribe's concern is that the Court, in
dismissing the Tribe's case, failed to apprehend the
Tribe's claim and therefore failed to actually address
it. As a result, argues the Tribe, claim preclusion cannot
apply because the Tribe's actual claim has never been
decided on its merits. The Tribe's argument is misguided.
it is indeed true that claim preclusion can apply only when
there is a final judgment on the merits, e.g. Davila v.
Delta Air Lines, Inc., 326 F.3d 1183, 1187 (11th Cir.
2003), the claims in Seminole I have, in fact, been
decided on their merits. As set forth in this Court's
order on remand, in Seminole I, the entirety of the
Tribe's complaint was before this Court, as well as the
Eleventh Circuit, on “fully-briefed and extensive
cross-motions for final summary judgment.”
(Seminole I, Order on Remand, ECF No. 110, 6
(emphasis in original).) Discovery had long since closed and
the motions were ripe for review. In reversing this
Court's order on summary judgment, the Eleventh Circuit
itself undertook the interest-balancing test set forth in
White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136
(1980) in order to determine whether the Tribe had
established preemption of the utility tax-either in its
entirety or only to a certain extent. In conducting this
analysis, the Eleventh Circuit determined that based on
the record before it, “the Tribe has failed to
demonstrate that the existence of these statutes represents
an exclusive or pervasive federal regulation of those
activities.” Seminole, 799 F.3d at 1353 n. 22.
That is, with the benefit of the parties' fully briefed
cross-motions for summary judgment before it for review, the
Eleventh Circuit concluded “the tax is validly
imposed” and could “discern here no pervasive
federal interest or comprehensive regulatory scheme . . .
sufficient to demonstrate” preemption. Id. at
1352, 1352 n. 21. To be clear, this Court, in evaluating
Biegalski's motion to dismiss, was fully aware, like the
Eleventh Circuit, that the Tribe sought a declaration that
federal law preempts Florida's imposition of any
utilities tax “to the extent [the tax] is
applied to electricity used to conduct specific activities
that the Tribe claims to be exclusively and pervasively
regulated by [f]ederal law.” (Pl.'s Mot. at 12
(emphasis in original).) The Eleventh Circuit, in
adjudicating the Tribe's claim in Seminole,
specifically focused on the “substantive
shortcomings” in the Tribe's arguments,
Davila, 326 F.3d at 1188, 89, thereby deciding the
case on its merits.
short, the Tribe's repeated reference to the Eleventh
Circuit's “election” not to address the
Tribe's preemption claim is flawed. As explained above,
the Eleventh Circuit fully evaluated the Tribe's claim
and was not persuaded “under the record presented in
this case.” Seminole, 799 F.3d at 1352 n. 21.
The Eleventh Circuit specifically pointed to the Tribe's
failure: to “develop further argument with respect to
electricity use in specifically regulated on-reservation
activities”; to “demonstrate that the existence
of these statutes represents an exclusive or pervasive
federal regulation of those activities”; and to
“introduce evidence of a substantial federal interest
in regulating Indians' utility use specifically.”
Id. at 1352, 1352 n. 22, 1353. The Eleventh Circuit
did not “refrain” from addressing the issue; it
carefully assessed the entirety of the Tribe's
claim-which the Tribe had an opportunity to fully and fairly
develop through discovery and briefing-and found the Tribe
had failed to carry its burden of demonstrating its
entitlement to relief.
remainder of the Tribe's motion merely rehashes the
arguments it presented during the briefing of Biegalski's
motion to dismiss, repackages its concerns that its claims
were not decided on their merits, presents new theories, or
mischaracterizes this Court's ...