Jews for Jesus v. Hillsborough Cty. , 162 F.3d 627 ( 1998 )


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  •                                    United States Court of Appeals,
    
                                               Eleventh Circuit.
    
                                                 No. 96-2468.
    
             JEWS FOR JESUS, INC., and Steve Cohen, Individually, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
    
                                                       v.
    
             HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY AVIATION AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellee.
    
                                                 Dec. 7, 1998.
    
    Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. (No. 95-1347-CIV-
    T-17A), Elizabeth A. Kovachevich, Judge.
    
    Before HATCHETT, Chief Judge, and TJOFLAT and COX, Circuit Judges.
    
            TJOFLAT, Circuit Judge:
    
            This case arises out of a First Amendment challenge to literature distribution policies at the
    
    Tampa International Airport. The challenged policies were revoked during the pendency of this
    
    lawsuit, and the district court dismissed the case as moot. We affirm.
    
            The plaintiff, Jews for Jesus, is a nonprofit Christian missionary organization.1 One of the
    
    organization's main activities is the distribution of free literature in airports. In 1994, Jews for Jesus
    
    contacted the Tampa International Airport (which is operated by defendant Hillsborough County
    
    Aviation Authority) about distributing literature at the airport. Jews for Jesus was informed that the
    
    airport's policy regarding literature distribution was presently under review,2 and that, pending
    
    
    
       1
        Steve Cohen, Florida Branch Director of Jews for Jesus, is also a plaintiff in this suit.
       2
        Tampa International Airport's literature distribution policy mandated that persons seeking to
    distribute literature in the airport must, inter alia, obtain permission from the director of airport
    operations, obtain $500,000 in personal injury and property damage insurance, and wear an
    official identification badge while on airport property. This policy was suspended in November
    1986; it had therefore been "under review" for nine years at the time of Jews for Jesus' lawsuit.
    completion of that review, literature distribution at the Tampa International Airport was completely
    
    prohibited. After discussions with various airport officials, Jews for Jesus brought this lawsuit in
    
    August 1995 seeking injunctive and declaratory relief that would permit the organization to
    
    distribute literature at the Tampa International Airport.3
    
            Approximately one month after the commencement of the lawsuit, in September 1995, the
    
    airport lifted the prohibition on the distribution of literature. Since that time, individuals and
    
    organizations—including Jews for Jesus—have been freely permitted to distribute literature at the
    
    Tampa International Airport. Jews for Jesus, however, maintains that the possibility of a return to
    
    the prior prohibition (or to the restrictive policy in place before the prohibition, see supra note 2)
    
    means that there was still a justiciable "case or controversy" before the district court, and thus it was
    
    error for the district court to dismiss the case as moot. We review the district court's determination
    
    de novo. See Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program v. J.S. Tarwater Developmental Ctr., 
    97 F.3d 492
    , 496 (11th Cir.1996).
    
            A case is moot when events subsequent to the commencement of a lawsuit create a situation
    
    in which the court can no longer give the plaintiff meaningful relief. See Pacific Ins. Co. v. General
    
    Dev. Corp., 
    28 F.3d 1093
    , 1096 (11th Cir.1994). In this case, the airport's change of policy has
    
    already given Jews for Jesus the relief they seek—the ability to distribute literature at the
    
    airport—and there is therefore no meaningful relief left for the court to give. The only remaining
    
    issue is whether the airport's policy was constitutional—which, at this stage, is a purely academic
    
    
       3
       Jews for Jesus claimed a right to relief under the First Amendment's Free Speech, Free
    Exercise, and Peaceable Assembly Clauses, and under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of
    1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1 (1994). The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was
    subsequently held unconstitutional in City of Boerne v. Flores, 
    521 U.S. 507
    , 
    117 S. Ct. 2157
    ,
    
    138 L. Ed. 2d 624
     (1997).
    
                                                       2
    point. See Princeton Univ. v. Schmid, 
    455 U.S. 100
    , 102, 
    102 S. Ct. 867
    , 869, 
    70 L. Ed. 2d 855
     (1982)
    
    ("We do not sit to decide hypothetical issues or to give advisory opinions about issues as to which
    
    there are not adverse parties before us.").
    
             Jews for Jesus, however, correctly points out that the mere voluntary cessation of a
    
    challenged practice does not render a case moot. See County of Los Angeles v. Davis, 
    440 U.S. 625
    ,
    
    631, 
    99 S. Ct. 1379
    , 1383, 
    59 L. Ed. 2d 642
     (1979). Otherwise, a party could moot a challenge to a
    
    practice simply by changing the practice during the course of a lawsuit, and then reinstate the
    
    practice as soon as the litigation was brought to a close. Thus, voluntary cessation of a challenged
    
    practice renders a case moot only if there is no "reasonable expectation" that the challenged practice
    
    will resume after the lawsuit is dismissed. See id.; United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 
    345 U.S. 629
    ,
    
    633, 
    73 S. Ct. 894
    , 897, 
    97 L. Ed. 1303
     (1953); see also National Advertising Co. v. City of Fort
    
    Lauderdale, 
    934 F.2d 283
    , 286 (11th Cir.1991) (holding that the case was not moot because there
    
    was a reasonable expectation that the challenged conduct would recur). See generally 13A Charles
    
    Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 3533.5 (2d ed.1984).
    
             The district court found that there was no reasonable expectation that the Tampa
    
    International Airport would return to its prior policy. We agree. The new "open door" policy
    
    appears to have been the result of substantial deliberation on the part of airport officials, and the
    
    evidence suggests that it has been consistently applied for the past three years. Because there is no
    
    reason to think that the airport will change its policy at the conclusion of this lawsuit, we affirm the
    
    district court's dismissal of the suit as moot.4
    
    
       4
        Jews for Jesus also claims that the case is not moot under the "capable of repetition, yet
    evading review" doctrine. That doctrine requires that "there was a reasonable expectation that
    the same complaining party would be subjected to the same action again." Weinstein v.
    
                                                       3
           We may, of course, be mistaken about the secret intentions of Tampa International Airport's
    
    officials. If they choose to reinstate their restrictive policies—or adopt similar ones—the courthouse
    
    door is open to Jews for Jesus to reinstate its lawsuit. Under such circumstances, the case would not
    
    be moot even if the airport again revoked its policies in response to the lawsuit, because such
    
    "flip-flopping" would create a reasonable expectation that the airport would reinstate the challenged
    
    practice at the close of the lawsuit.
    
           Jews for Jesus also claims that the time given it for discovery was too short—only 21
    
    business days—and therefore there were not sufficient facts before the court to make a determination
    
    of whether the case should be dismissed. All of the information sought by Jews for Jesus in its
    
    proposed discovery, however, related to past practices of the Tampa International Airport. None
    
    of it related to whether the airport was likely to resume its challenged practices in the future.
    
    Therefore, the alleged error in the discovery process does not affect our resolution of this appeal.
    
           For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
    
    
    
    
    Bradford, 
    423 U.S. 147
    , 149, 
    96 S. Ct. 347
    , 349, 
    46 L. Ed. 2d 350
     (1975). Therefore, our holding
    that there is no reasonable expectation that the conduct will recur also precludes application of
    the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" doctrine.
    
                                                      4
    

Document Info

DocketNumber: 96-2468

Citation Numbers: 162 F.3d 627

Filed Date: 12/7/1998

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 4/5/2017

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