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Lacroix v. Lee County

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

July 29, 2018

ADAM LACROIX, an individual Plaintiff,

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]


         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Lee County, Florida's (“Lee County”) Motion for Joinder (Doc. 33), which was filed on June 13, 2018. Plaintiff Adam Lacroix (“Lacroix”) responded on June 21, 2018. (Doc. 39). The matter is ripe for review.

         This dispute concerns an effort to join Boston Red Sox Baseball Club, Limited Partnership (the “Red Sox”) and NESV Florida Real Estate LLC (“NESV”) (collectively, the “Non-Parties”) to an ongoing first amendment case. The facts of the case have been fully laid out in a previous Opinion and Order. (Doc. 43). Only the salient details will be repeated here.

         Lacroix is a roaming evangelist. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 33). On April 29, 2017, he attempted to preach at a sports complex in Lee County, Florida, known as JetBlue Park (the “JetBlue Property”). (Doc. 1 at ¶ 64). The JetBlue Property consists of parcels owned by Lee County and NESV. (Doc. 36-1). Lee County exclusively leases its portions of the JetBlue Property to the Red Sox on a year-round basis. (Docs. 36-2 at 5-7; 38-2 at ¶ 4).

         On the date of the incident, the Non-Parties allowed a concert to take place on the JetBlue Property. (Docs. 1 at ¶ 64;1-8 at 9). The concert was permitted under Lee County's Special Events Permitting Ordinance (the “Ordinance”). (Doc. 1 at ¶ 65). The concert organizer requested the Lee County Sheriff's Office (“LCSO”) only allow concert patrons to enter the JetBlue Property. (Doc. 36-4 at ¶ 7).

         When Lacroix attempted to begin preaching, LCSO Lieutenant James Dryzmala (“Officer Dryzmala”) approached and summoned a concert organizer, who demanded Lacroix leave. (Docs. 1 at ¶¶ 64, 66-67, 82, 86-88; 36-4 at ¶ 3). Officer Dryzmala then directed Lacroix to move outside the JetBlue Property. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 97). When Lacroix protested, Officer Dryzmala informed him that further non-compliance would result in his arrest for trespass. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 99). Lacroix does not specify whether he complied with Officer Dryzmala's directive or if he faced reprisal for trespass.

         Lacroix then sued Lee County and Officer Dryzmala, claiming Lee County's Trespass Policy for public property (the “Trespass Policy”) and Ordinance (collectively, the “Laws”), facially restrict first amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. (Doc. 1). He also claimed Lee County and Officer Dryzmala's application of the Laws unconstitutionally restricted free speech and free exercise of religion. (Doc. 1).

         Lacroix then moved to enjoin the enforcement of the Trespass Policy and the Ordinance. (Doc. 7). But the Court found Lacroix lacked standing for injunctive relief. (Doc. 43). Now, Lee County moves to join the Red Sox and NESV as required parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. (Doc. 33).


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 provides for mandatory joinder of a non-party. See Molinos Valle del Cibao, C. por A. v. Lama, 633 F.3d 1330, 1344 (11th Cir. 2011). Under Rule 19(a)(1)(B),

[a] person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of subject-matter jurisdiction must be joined as a party if that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest; or (ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the interest.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1)(B)(i)-(ii) (internal punctuation omitted). A person whom the court deems must be joined if feasible is regarded as “necessary.” BFI Waste Sys. of N. Am., Inc. v. Broward Cty., Fla., 209 F.R.D. 509, 514 (S.D. Fla. 2002). The burden of proving a party is necessary rests with the moving party. Id.

         Lee County argues the basis for Lacroix's suit is that he wishes to invalidate the Ordinance and the Trespass Policy to obtain the right to access the JetBlue Property and engage in his preaching activities. That interpretation compels Lee County to contend the Red Sox, as the lessee of Lee County's portions of the JetBlue Property, and NESV, as the owner of the remaining portions of the JetBlue Property, must be joined for two reasons. First, Lee County argues the Non-Parties should be joined because they have interests in the subject of this case that might be impaired if the case is adjudicated in their absence. Second, Lee County argues adjudicating this case without the Non-Parties could expose it to multiple or otherwise inconsistent obligations. Lacroix disagrees. The Court will address each element in assessing whether joinder is merited.

         As a threshold matter, it is uncontested that the Non-Parties are subject to service of process and their inclusion would not deprive the Court of subject matter jurisdiction. Still, mandatory joinder is unmerited for a number of reasons. First, Rule 19(b) applies only to parties that affirmatively claim an interest in the action. SeeFed. R. Civ. P. 19(b); see alsoGreen v. Bannasch, No. 6:14-CV-1676-ORL-37, 2015 WL 3465828, at *5 (M.D. Fla. June 1, 2015) (finding a party was not necessary in part because it had not claimed ...

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