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Cayuse, LLC v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 24, 2017

CAYUSE, LLC, t/a WELD WEST CITY, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et. al, Respondent.

          OPINION

          JOSEPH A. DICKSON, U.S.M.J.

         This matter comes before the Court upon Petitioner, Cayuse, LLC trading as Wild West City's ("Petitioner") Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 20). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, no oral argument was heard. Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions (ECF No. 20, 21, 24), and for the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Motion to Amend is DENIED.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 29, 2014, the Petitioner filed a Complaint Petition for a De Novo Review ("Complaint") of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Newark Field Division (hereinafter "ATF or Respondent") action which revoked its federal firearms license. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 2).

         Petitioner is a western theme park located in the State of New Jersey. (Id.) Petitioner was owned and operated by the Stabile family. (Id.) "Both state and federal firearms licenses have been held in Stabile's name individually as well as in the names of StaMat Corporation and Western World, Inc., companies that have previously traded as Wild West City." (Id.) Petitioner alleges that they use the license to purchase firearms for theatrical purposes at Wild West City. (Id.) The license is also used "for the sale of firearms to local law enforcement, re-enactors and unrelated third parties for their own private use unassociated with the theme park." (Id. at 3).

         On July 7, 2006, a performer was shot in the back of the head during one of the re-enactments at Wild West City. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 3). As a result, "the Sussex County, New Jersey grand jury returned a 25 count indictment against Stabile, Cheyenne Corporation (the corporation that owns the real estate that WWC operates upon), Western World, Inc., which at the time traded as Wild West City, and two other individual defendants who were employees of Wild West City." (Id. at 3). The Sussex County Prosecutor's Office alleged, that one of the performers, "was in a hurry for the performance and inadvertently loaded one of WWW's operable firearms with live ammunition that another performer brought to the park, concealed in a closed gun case, in violation of company policy and without the knowledge of management."[1] (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 3). Thirteen of those counts applied to Stabile, seven counts applied to Cheyenne Corporation and Western World, Inc. All counts of the indictment were dismissed as to Stabile and Cheyenne Corporation. (Id.). All but one count was dismissed as to Western World. As to the criminal matter, Western World pleaded guilty "to being an accomplice to unlawful possession of a handgun, i.e. not having a carry permit, a third degree crime in the State of New Jersey." (Id.). As a result, Western World was sentenced to one-year probation and ordered to pay a fine. (Id.). On October 12, 2012, the criminal matter was concluded. (Id.)

         As a result of the shooting that took place at Wild West City and the subsequent criminal investigation, the State of New Jersey refused to renew Wild West City's state retail firearms license. (Id. at 3). On September 30, 2010, the Honorable N. Peter Conforti, J.S.C., presiding in Sussex County, New Jersey, denied the renewal application of Stabile's New Jersey Retail Firearms License due to the criminal charges pending in the indictment against Stabile. Stabile requested a hearing and appealed the matter to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellant Division. (Id. at 4).

         At the time the Complaint was filed, there were two appeals pending in the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellant Division. The two appeals were merged. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 4). Docket number A-4229-11T2 was filed by Petitioner on May 25, 2012 due to the denial of Petitioner's renewal application for a New Jersey State License to Retail Firearms. (Pet. Br., ECF 20 at 5). On March 28, 2016, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division decided docket number A-4229-11T2. The court vacated its previous order denying the Petitioner's license. (Pet. Br., ECF No. 20 at 6). However, the court did not remand the application for a new hearing because the license had lapsed.[2] Petitioner has submitted a new application with the New Jersey State Police. Petitioner alleges that the New Jersey State Police takes the position that the Petitioner can only retail firearms to re-enactors that carry a permit. (Pet. Br., ECF No. 20 at 6).

         Also pending before the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division was an appeal filed by Western World, Inc. assigned as docket number A-3007-12T2. Western World appealed the legal question of "whether or not it or any other 're-enactors' needed a carry permit." (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 3). However, Western Word, Inc. decided to withdraw its appeal. (Pet. Br., ECF No. 20 at 7).

         On or about July 3, 2014, Petitioner was notified by Respondent that its federal firearms license application was being denied. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 5). The notice of denial indicated that Respondent's decision was based on Petitioner's inability to certify that its federal firearms business would be in compliance with state law, as it lacked the requisite state retail firearms license and that Petitioner did not have a premises from which it intended to conduct its federal firearms business. (Id. at 5). Petitioner filed for a hearing with the ATF to review the notice of denial of its federal license. (Id.)

         On September 15, 2014, the ATF conducted a hearing on the notice of the denial of Petitioner's federal firearms license. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 5). Following the hearing, ATF issued a "Final Notice of Denial" to Petitioner. (Id.) On October 29, 2014, ATF revoked Petitioner's license. (Id.)

         On December 29, 2014, Petitioner filed a Complaint in this Court for de novo review of Respondent's October 29, 2014 decision. (Compl., ECF No. 1). On May 20, 2016, Respondent filed a "motion to dismiss or alternatively motion for summary judgment". (ECF No. 11). On July 12, 2016, Petitioner filed a motion to amend the Complaint. (ECF No. 20). Petitioner's motion to amend the complaint seeks to add John Hoffman, the acting Attorney General of the State of New Jersey and Francis Koch, the Sussex County Prosecutor, and the Superintendent of the State Police to this action. (Pet. Br., ECF No. 20 at 5). Petitioner's renewal application for its State License to Retail Firearms is currently pending before the Honorable William J. McGovern, III, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Criminal Division, Sussex County. (Pet. Ltr., ECF No. 24 at 2).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) governs requests for leave to amend, allowing a party to amend its pleadings after obtaining the Court's leave or the written consent of its adversary. Under this liberal rule, the Court must "freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2); see also Wright & Miller section 1484, at 676 ("Subdivision (a)(2) encourages the court to look favorably on requests to amend."). This lenient standard ensures that "a particular claim will be decided on the merits rather than on technicalities." Dole v. Arco Chem. Co., 921 F.2d 484, 487 (3d Cir. 1990) (internal citation omitted); see also Sabatino v. Union Township. No. 11-1656 (JLL), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54866, at * 17-18 (D.N.J. April 15, 2013) (internal citations omitted) ...


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