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Byrd v. Tennessee Wine And Spirits Retailers Association

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 6, 2017

CLAYTON BYRD in his official capacity as Executive Director of the TENNESSEE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE COMMISSION Plaintiff,
v.
TENNESSEE WINE AND SPIRITS RETAILERS ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants.

          Frensley Magistrate Judge.

          MEMORANDUM

          KEVIN H. SHARP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court are the following motions: Defendant Tennessee Fine Wines and Spirits, LLC's (d/b/a Total Wine Spirits Beer & More) (“Tennessee Fine Wines”) and Defendant Affluere Investments, Inc.'s (d/b/a Kimbrough Fine Wine & Spirits) (“Affluere”) Motions to Remand, (Docket Nos. 9, 20), to which Defendant Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association (“the Association” or “Association”) has responded, (Docket No. 23); Defendant Association's Motion to Realign Parties, (Docket No. 24), to which Defendant Tennessee Fine Wines, Defendant Affluere, and Plaintiff Clayton Byrd (“Byrd”) have filed Responses in Opposition, (Docket Nos. 30, 31, 36), and to which Defendant Association has filed replies (Docket No. 39, 42); and Defendant Association's Motion to Strike, (Docket No. 32), to which Defendant Tennessee Fine Wines has filed a Response in Opposition, (Docket No. 35). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Association's Motion to Strike will be denied; Defendant Association's Motion to Realign Parties will be granted; and Defendant Tennessee Fine Wines' and Defendant Affluere's Motions to Remand and requests for attorney's fees will be denied.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff Byrd, in his official capacity as Executive Director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (“the Commission”), originally filed this action in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the constitutionality of the two-year residency requirement outlined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-3-204(b)(2)(A). (Docket No. 1-1). That provision provides as follows:

No retail license under this section may be issued to any individual: Who has not been a bona fide resident of this state during the two-year period immediately preceding the date upon which application is made to the commission or, with respect to renewal of any license issued pursuant to this section, who has not at any time been a resident of this state for at least ten (10) consecutive years[.]

         In addition to himself, Plaintiff Byrd listed the following as parties[1] to the action: “Defendant Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association, ” “Defendant Kimbrough Fine Wine & Spirits, ” and “Defendant Total Wine Spirits Beer & More.” (Id. at 2, ¶¶ 2-4). In his Complaint, Plaintiff Byrd alleges the following:

         The Commission oversees the issuance of alcohol licenses. Both Defendant Kimbrough Fine Wine & Spirits and Defendant Total Wine Spirits Beer & More submitted applications to the Commission for a retail package store license, but neither meets the residency requirement. Relying on two Tennessee Attorney General's Opinions finding the residency requirement unconstitutional and finding no other reason to deny the nonresidents' license application, the Commission otherwise would recommend approving the pending applications. The Commission postponed making a decision on the applications in order to explore the legal consequences of either granting or denying the licenses and to consult with counsel, the Tennessee Attorney General. In anticipation of the decision, counsel for Defendant Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association contacted Plaintiff Byrd and advised that, “if the Commission grants a retail package store license to a nonresident entity, Tennessee residents with retail package store licenses ‘would immediately file suit . . . asking a court to make a Tennessee Agency follow current Tennessee law passed by the Tennessee Legislature elected by Tennessee citizens.'” (Id. at 5, ¶ 17). Counsel for both Defendant Kimbrough Fine Wine & Spirits and Defendant Total Wine Spirits Beer & More “have suggested to Director Byrd that if the Commission denies their nonresident applications for a retail package store license, they will pursue legal action against the Commission, which would likely involve a constitutional challenge to the residency requirement.” (Id. at 5, ¶ 18). Plaintiff Byrd further asserts that “[t]he threat of litigation from both resident and nonresident entities upon issuance of either decision, along with the Attorney General's Opinions regarding Tenn. Code. Ann. § 57-3-204(b)(2)(A), has created uncertainty in the Commission about the correct application of the residency requirement to nonresident Defendants' applications.” (Id. at 5, ¶ 19).

         Defendant Association filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b) on October 19, 2016, removing the case to this Court based on this Court's federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Defendant Tennessee Fine Wines and Defendant Affluere seek to remand the case, arguing that the Notice of Removal is defective because they did not consent or join in.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Motion to Strike

         As an initial matter, the Court will address Defendant Association's Motion to Strike. (Docket No. 32). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides a way for courts to strike only documents or portions of documents that are pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). When deciding whether to strike non-pleading documents, such as the Responses in Opposition at issue here, trial courts invoke their inherent power to manage their own dockets. See In re Air Crash Disaster, 86 F.3d 498, 516 (6th Cir. 1996) (quoting In re Fine Paper Antitrust Litig., 685 F.2d 810, 817 (3d Cir. 1982)) (“[M]atters of docket control . . . are committed to the sound discretion of the district court.”); Ready Transp., Inc. v. AAR Mfg., Inc., 627 F.3d 402, 404 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Lazy Y Ranch Ltd. v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580, 586-88 (9th Cir. 2008) and Hambleton Bros. Lumber Co. v. Balkin Enterprises, Inc., 397 F.3d 1217, 1224-26 (9th Cir. 2005)) (stating that district courts' inherent power to control their own dockets “includes the power to strike items from the docket as a sanction for litigation conduct.”). “However, motions to strike are generally disfavored and should only be granted when the material at issue has ‘no possible relation to the controversy.'” A Metal Source, LLC v. All Metal Sales, Inc., No. 1:14-CV-01020-DAP, 2016 WL 245981, at *3 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 21, 2016).

         Defendant Association asks this Court to strike Defendant Tennessee Fine Wines' and Defendant Affluere's Responses in Opposition, (Docket Nos. 30, 31), to Defendant Association's Motion to Realign Parties, (Docket No. 24). To support its motion, Defendant Association argues that Defendants Tennessee Fine Wines and Affluere “used their purported responses to the Association's motion to realign the parties as vehicles to reargue their motions to remand without seeking leave of Court to file replies” pursuant to Local Rule 7.01(b). (Docket Nos. 32 at 1; 33 at 2).

         Defendant Tennessee Fine Wines opposes the Motion to Strike. It asserts that Defendant Association argues against the Motions to Remand on the grounds that 1) “the parties should be realigned so that the Association is the only defendant[, ]” eliminating the need for consent to removal and 2) Defendants Tennessee Fine Wines and Affluere were not “‘properly joined and served' before removal.” (Docket No. 35 at 1). Because those arguments are “logically related, ” Defendant Tennessee Fine Wines contends that it was appropriate to address the issue of allegedly not having been “properly joined and served” in its Response in Opposition to Defendant Association's Motion to Realign Parties. (Id. at 2).

         The undersigned judge has opted out of Local Rule 7.01(b) and “does not require a motion seeking permission to file a reply.” Practice and Procedure Manual for Judges and Magistrate Judges for the Middle District of Tennessee (Judge Kevin H. Sharp), § III(C)(3). For that reason alone, Defendant Association's argument in support of its Motion to Strike is unavailing. Furthermore, even though it is true that Defendant Association filed a separate Motion to Realign Parties, it clearly argued in its Response to the Motions to Remand that Defendants Tennessee Fine Wines and Affluere should be realigned as plaintiffs. (Docket No. 23 at 5-6). Given the connection between the Motions to Remand and the Motion to Realign Parties, the Court takes no issue with Defendants Tennessee Fine Wines and Affluere having advanced arguments beyond those strictly related to the Motion to Realign Parties in their Responses in Opposition to it. ...


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