United States District Court, S.D. Florida
EGLISE BAPTISTE BETHANIE DE FT. LAUDERDALE, INC., and ANDY SAINT-REMY, Plaintiffs,
SEMINOLE TRIBE OF FLORIDA and AIDA AUGUSTE, Defendants.
BLOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant Seminole
Tribe of Florida's (“Defendant Seminole
Tribe”) Motion to Dismiss, ECF No.  (the
“Seminole Tribe's Motion”), Defendant Aida
Auguste's (“Defendant Auguste”) Motion to
Dismiss, ECF No.  (“Auguste's Motion”),
and Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended
Complaint, ECF No.  (“Motion to Amend”),
(collectively, the “Motions”). The Court has
carefully reviewed the Motions, all opposing and supporting
submissions, the record in this case, and the applicable law,
and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons set forth
below, the Seminole Tribe's Motion is granted;
Auguste's Motion is granted; and Plaintiffs' Motion
to Amend is denied.
initiated this action on October 17, 2019, asserting claims
against Defendants Aida Auguste and the Seminole Tribe of
Florida (collectively, “Defendants”). ECF No.
. On December 1, 2019, and with the Court's
permission, see ECF No. , Plaintiffs filed their
Amended Complaint, ECF No. , which asserts eighty-three
counts: Counts 1 and 4-83 assert violations of the Freedom of
Access to Clinic Entrances, 18 U.S.C. § 248(a)(2)
(“FACE Act”) by each individual Plaintiff against
Defendants; Count 2 asserts a claim of Interference with
Business Relationships by Plaintiff Eglise Baptiste Bethanie
De Ft. Lauderdale, Inc. (“Eglise Baptiste”)
against Defendant Seminole Tribe; and Count 3 asserts a claim
of Trespass by Eglise Baptiste against Defendant Seminole
Tribe. See generally ECF No. .
Amended Complaint alleges that on July 26, 2014, the
then-Pastor of Eglise Baptiste, Reverend Usler Auguste
(“Pastor Auguste”), passed away. ECF No. 
¶ 7. Since then, the Board of Directors of Eglise
Baptiste and Defendant Auguste, Pastor Auguste's widow,
have contended for the leadership of Eglise Baptiste.
Id. On September 22, 2019, the congregation convened
for a meeting to approve the process for the selection and
installation of Pastor Auguste's successor. Id.
¶ 8. The congregational meeting ultimately
“devolved into a pushing, shoving and punching affair
between the supporters of the Board of Directors and the
supporters of [Defendant] Auguste, ” which necessitated
police intervention to restore order. Id. On
September 24, 2019, based on the events that occurred at the
congregational meeting, Eglise Baptiste filed a civil action
for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendant
Auguste and her supporters in the Circuit Court of the
Seventeenth Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County,
Florida, which is ongoing. Id. ¶ 9.
September 29, 2019, “Eglise Baptiste conducted its
weekly Sabbath services in the religious structure located on
the Church Property.” Id. ¶ 10. While
those services were in progress, Defendant Auguste and her
supporters, escorted by six armed officers from the Seminole
Police Department, and without judicial authorization entered
church property, “disabled the Church Property's
surveillance cameras, ” “expelled from the Church
Property all the worshipers who opposed Auguste, ”
“changed the locks to the doors of the religious
structure located on the Church Property, ”
“seized the business records of Eglise Baptiste,
” and “locked the gates to the Church
Property.” Id. Defendant Auguste and her
supporters continue to occupy the church property and control
Eglise Baptiste's personal property, including its bank
accounts. Id. Further, Defendant Auguste and her
supporters have continued to exclude Plaintiffs from the
church property. Id.
Amended Complaint also contains the following allegation:
The judicial doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity does not
insulate [Defendant Seminole Tribe] from the claims which
Plaintiffs have asserted against [it] in this civil action
because: (a) the actions of [Defendant Seminole Tribe's]
police officers took place more than eleven (11) miles from
[Defendant Seminole Tribe's] Hollywood, Florida,
reservation, (b) prior to September 29, 2019, Plaintiffs had
not had an opportunity to negotiate with [Defendant Seminole
Tribe] for a waiver of [its] tribal sovereign immunity; and
(c) other than through this civil action, Plaintiffs have no
means by which to secure monetary compensation for [Defendant
Seminole Tribe's] infringements of Plaintiffs' rights
under Federal and Florida law.
Id. ¶ 11.
Seminole Tribe's Motion, Defendant Seminole Tribe argues
that Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint should be dismissed
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction because it is a federally
recognized Indian tribe that is entitled to tribal sovereign
immunity. Plaintiffs filed a Response in Opposition. ECF No.
. Defendant Seminole Tribe filed a Reply. ECF No. .
Auguste's Motion, Defendant Auguste seeks dismissal of
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, arguing that it (1) fails
to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6); (2) involves non-justiciable questions of internal
church governance; and (3) improperly attempts to split
causes of action. Plaintiffs filed their Response in
Opposition, ECF No. , to which Defendant Auguste filed a
Reply. ECF No. .
in the Motion to Amend, Plaintiffs request leave to file a
Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. [25-1] (“Second
Amended Complaint”), to correct typographical mistakes,
drop the claims of tortious interference and trespass, add a
claim for injunctive relief, drop and add certain individuals
as Plaintiffs, and name seventeen additional individuals as
Defendants. Defendants each filed their respective Responses
in Opposition, ECF Nos.  & , to which Plaintiffs
filed a Reply, ECF No. . In addition, Plaintiffs filed a
Notice of Supplemental Authority in support of their Motion
to Amend, ECF No. , which cited to Crawford's
Auto Center, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
Co., No. 17-12583, 2019 WL 6974428, at *1 (11th Cir.
Dec. 20, 2019).
motion brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) challenges the district court's subject-matter
jurisdiction and takes one of two forms: a “facial
attack” or a “factual attack.” Lawrence
v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990).
“A ‘facial attack' on the complaint
‘require[s] the court merely to look and see if [the]
plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter
jurisdiction, and the allegations in his complaint are taken
as true for the purposes of the motion.'”
McElmurray v. Consol. Gov't of Augusta-Richmond
Cty., 501 F.3d 1244, 1251 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Lawrence, 919 F.2d at 1529). “A ‘factual
attack,' on the other hand, challenges the existence of
subject matter jurisdiction based on matters outside the
pleadings.” Kuhlman v. United States, 822
F.Supp.2d 1255, 1256-57 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (citing
Lawrence, 919 F.2d at 1529); see Stalley ex rel.
U.S. v. Orlando Reg'l Healthcare Sys., Inc., 524
F.3d 1229, 1233 (11th Cir. 2008) (“[A] factual attack
on a complaint challenges the existence of subject matter
jurisdiction using material extrinsic from the pleadings,
such as affidavits or testimony.”). Further, the
“[p]laintiff bears the burden of proving the existence
of subject matter jurisdiction.” Desporte-Bryan v.
Bank of Am., 147 F.Supp.2d 1356, 1360 (S.D. Fla. 2001)
(citing Boudreau v. United States, 53 F.3d 81, 82
(5th Cir. 1995)).
assessing the propriety of a motion for dismissal under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), a district court is not limited to an
inquiry into undisputed facts; it may hear conflicting
evidence and decide for itself the factual issues that
determine jurisdiction.” Colonial Pipeline Co. v.
Collins, 921 F.2d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 1991). As such,
“[w]hen a defendant properly challenges subject matter
jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) the district court is free
to independently weigh facts, and ‘may proceed as it
never could under Rule 12(b)(6) or Fed.R.Civ.P.
56.'” Turcios v. Delicias Hispanas Corp.,
275 Fed.Appx. 879, 880 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Morrison
v. Amway Corp., 323 F.3d 920, 925 (11th Cir. 2003)).
Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that a pleading contain
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). Although a complaint “does not need detailed
factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining
that Rule 8(a)(2)'s pleading standard “demands more
than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation”). In the same vein, a complaint may not
rest on “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.'”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (alteration in original)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). “Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555. These elements are required to survive a motion brought
under Rule 12(b)(6) that requests dismissal for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
reviewing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, as a general
rule, must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and
evaluate all plausible inferences derived from those facts in
favor of the plaintiff. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of
Fla. v. S. Everglades Restoration All., 304 F.3d 1076,
1084 (11th Cir. 2002). However, this tenet does not apply to
legal conclusions, and courts “are not bound to accept
as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Thaeter v. Palm Beach Cty.
Sheriff's Office, 449 F.3d 1342, 1352 (11th Cir.
2006). Moreover, “courts may infer from the factual
allegations in the complaint ‘obvious alternative
explanations,' which suggest lawful conduct rather than
the unlawful conduct the plaintiff would ask the court to
infer.” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp.,
605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 682).
court, in considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “may
consider only the complaint itself and any documents referred
to in the complaint which are central to the claims.”
Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959
(11th Cir. 2009) (citing Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue
Shield of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d 1364, 1369 (11th Cir.
1997)); see also Maxcess, Inc. v. Lucent Techs.,
Inc., 433 F.3d 1337, 1340 n.3 (11th Cir. 2005)
(“[A] document outside the four corners of the
complaint may still be considered if it is central to the
plaintiff's claims and is undisputed in terms of
authenticity.” (citing Horsley v. Feldt, 304
F.3d 1125, 1135 (11th Cir. 2002))).
Motion to Amend
Rule of Civil Procedure 15 governs amended pleadings
generally and provides that “a party may amend its
pleading only with the opposing party's written consent
or the court's leave, ” which “[t]he court
should freely give leave when justice so requires.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). A plaintiff should be afforded the
opportunity to test his claim on the merits as long ...