— by Nick Dwyer
CAIR Florida, Inc. v. Teotwawki Investments, LLC, No. 15-cv-61541, 2015 WL 4571442 (S.D. Fla. Nov. 24, 2015).
Abstract: After a gun store owner made remarks that his store would not serve Muslim terrorists, a rightly outraged Muslim Organization challenged the store on civil rights grounds. Unfortunately, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida found that the organization lacked standing and dismissed the complaint.
In the aftermath of the incident at the recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the owner of Florida Gun Supply declared that his store would be a “Muslim Free Zone.” This message was posted on the owner’s YouTube page and subsequently replayed on national television. The store not only exhibits and sells firearms, but also hosts gun safety and shooting classes on its ranges. The owner’s desire to prevent future terrorists from acquiring weapons apparently prompted his remarks.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) filed a complaint challenging the store. They alleged religious discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. CAIR is a non-profit organization formed after 9/11 that seeks to change the stereotypes of Muslims and defend civil liberties. In their complaint, CAIR alleged that the defendant singled out Muslims, threatened and intimidated CAIR and its members, and discriminated against them. Their complaint then concluded that the organization and its constituents were injured and continued to be injured.
The defendant gun store submitted a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). While the motion also involved issues of what a “public accommodation” is and whether the first amendment protected the store owner’s speech, the dispositive issues in the court’s order was whether the plaintiff had standing and if they demonstrated an imminent injury.
The court summarized the relevant portions of the well-known Twombly and Iqbal cases by saying that the complaint needed to provide facts beyond mere labels or naked assertions.
After a review of the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court relied on the requirements of standing to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint. The court accepted the plaintiff’s statement that organizations can have standing to sue for the group of people it seeks to protect. The court stated that organizations may have standing 1) if the organization itself is injured or 2) if the organization is acting as the representative of its members who have been injured. “Organizational standing” does not relieve a party from the requirement of pleading imminent injury.
In order to have standing, a party must show 1) concrete and imminent injury in fact, 2) causation by the defendant, and 3) redressability. The court found the plaintiff’s claim lacked an imminent injury in this case. The court compared several recent eleventh circuit cases to the Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife case. The issue in Lujan was that the two organizational members who claimed to be injured did not have a definite date that they would return to the areas of concern in the case. This was similar to an eleventh circuit case that found no standing for plaintiffs who stated an intention to protest in the future without a definite date. The court noted what it would take to have a definite injury when it referenced an eleventh circuit case finding an imminent injury to a voting rights organization because the definite date of injury was the next year’s election.
Turning to the case at hand, the court found the facts more similar to those in Lujan than the cases where imminent injury was found. The defendant pointed out that the plaintiffs had not attempted to purchase firearms, had not attempted to attend classes, nor had they stated they will attempt to do any of those activates in the future. Based on these facts, the court found that the plaintiff’s allegations of injury were conclusory and indicated a lack of standing.