United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are Plaintiff Mitchell Purdom's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. 53), Brief in Support (Doc. 53-1),
and Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 53-2);
Amicus Curiae Leslie Rutledge's Brief in Opposition (Doc.
56); and Mr. Purdom's Reply (Doc. 58). In preparing to
rule on Mr. Purdom's Motion, the Court has also reviewed
his Supplemental Brief on Mootness and Jurisdiction (Doc.
41), which discusses many germane issues despite having been
filed roughly half a year prior to his Motion. As explained
below, Mr. Purdom's claims against Defendant Roger Morgan
have become moot. Accordingly, his Motion is DENIED, and his
claims against Mr. Morgan are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
November 3, 2015, Mr. Purdom rented and moved into a home
owned by Don and Judy Lewis in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Mr.
Purdom has been diagnosed with severe depression. For
treatment, he takes medication and attends weekly therapy
sessions with a clinical psychologist. On April 8, 2016, his
psychologist wrote a letter recommending that he obtain an
emotional support dog to live with him. Mr. Purdom delivered
this letter to the Lewises on that same day. The Lewises
responded by informing Mr. Purdom that he would not be
permitted to have a dog in his home.
Purdom complained to the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission
("AFHC") about the Lewises' refusal to
accommodate his request for an emotional support dog. After
learning that Mr. Purdom had contacted the AFHC, Mr. Lewis
told Mr. Purdom that he could keep a dog after all, so long
as he paid a $500 non-refundable pet deposit. Mr. Purdom
refused this offer. Mr. Lewis then gave him a 10-day notice
to vacate the property pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §
18-16-101-which criminalizes a tenant's failure to pay
rent-and returned Mr. Purdom's most recent rent check.
(Mr. Purdom contends that he timely paid all rents owed to
13, 2016, Mr. Purdom initiated the instant lawsuit by filing
a Complaint (Doc. 1) in this Court against the Lewises, as
well as against the City Attorney for Mountain Home, Roger
Morgan. Among other requested relief, the Complaint sought an
injunction restraining Mr. Morgan from enforcing the
aforementioned criminal eviction statute against Mr. Purdom,
as well as a judgment declaring the statute unconstitutional
under federal and state law. On July 6, 2016, Mr. Purdom and
Mr. Morgan filed a Joint Motion for Preliminary Injunction
and Stay (Doc. 22), which the Court granted two days later
(Doc. 23). The Court's Order prohibited Mr. Morgan from
enforcing the statute against Mr. Purdom during the pendency
of this action.
August 8, 2016, Mr. Purdom moved out of the property he had
been renting from the Lewises. Two weeks later, he filed an
Unopposed Motion for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
against Mr. Morgan, seeking "a declaration that Ark.
Code Ann. § 18-16-101 violates the United States
Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution, and a permanent
injunction enjoining Defendant Morgan from enforcing the
statute." (Doc. 33, p. 1). Then, on September 29, 2016,
Mr. Purdom settled all of his claims against the Lewises, and
the Court dismissed those claims with prejudice (subject to
the terms of the settlement agreement). See Doc. 38.
Court held a hearing on Mr. Purdom's Unopposed Motion on
October 14, 2016, at which time "the Court expressed
concerns regarding whether this case [was] still justiciable
under Article III of the United States Constitution, as well
as whether it would be prudent for the Court to rule on
[that] Motion as currently postured even if Article III
justiciability still exists, " given the non-adversarial
posture taken by the sole remaining parties in the case.
See Doc. 39, p. 1. Since issues of justiciability
had not previously been briefed, the Court invited
supplemental briefing on these matters from the parties.
See Id. at 1-2. "After receiving this
supplemental briefing, see Doc. 41, and pondering
the matter further, the Court decided to solicit amicus
curiae briefing from the Arkansas Attorney General
('the AG') in defense of the challenged statute, in
order to sharpen the presentation of the merits." (Doc.
45, p. 2).
accepted the Court's amicus invitation on
January 4, 2017, but directed the Court's attention to a
bill which was then pending in the Arkansas General Assembly
and which, if enacted, would substantially amend Ark. Code
Ann. § 18-16-101. See Id. The Court then
entered a stay of this case "until the Arkansas General
Assembly concludes its current legislative session or a law
is enacted amending Ark. Code Ann. § 18-16-101,
whichever is earlier." Id. at 4. The bill in
question was enacted a month and a half later as Act 159, to
take effect on August 4, 2017. See Doc. 50, pp. 1-2.
Accordingly, the Court lifted the stay and directed Mr.
Purdom to file an amended complaint specifying what
challenges he would make against Ark. Code Ann. §
18-16-101 in its pre-Act 159 form ("the Old
Statute") and what challenges he would make against it
in its post-Act 159 form ("the New Statute").
See Id. at 2-3. Mr. Purdom complied, filing his
Amended Complaint (Doc. 51) on March 13, setting forth
challenges to both the Old and the New Statutes, and naming
Mr. Morgan as the only defendant.
8, Mr. Purdom filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, seeking
"an order (i) declaring that § 18-16-101, both in
its current form and as amended by Act 159, violates the
state and federal constitutions and (ii) permanently
enjoining Defendant Morgan from enforcing either version of
the statute against him." (Doc. 53, p. 1). Once again,
his Motion is unopposed by Mr. Morgan. In Mr. Morgan's
stead, the AG has filed a Brief in Opposition, see
Doc. 56, to which Mr. Purdom has replied, see Doc.
58. Importantly, the parties and the AG all agree now that
with respect to the facts alleged in this particular case,
Mr. Purdom could only be prosecuted under the Old Statute-not
the New Statute. See Doc. 53-1, p. 13 ("[U]nder
Arkansas law, Defendant Morgan can only prosecute Plaintiff
Purdom under the current version of § 18-16-101, which
was in effect in June 2016, and Morgan cannot prosecute
Purdom under Act 159 once that law becomes effective.");
Doc. 56, p. 12 ("Given the facts as alleged, Morgan
could not prosecute Purdom under the 2017 statute-a fact that
even Purdom concedes.").
general, a pending claim for injunctive relief becomes moot
when the challenged conduct ceases and there is no reasonable
expectation that the wrong will be repeated."
Beaulieu v. Ludeman, 690 F.3d 1017, 1024 (8th Cir.
2012). This is because a federal court "lack[s]
jurisdiction over cases in which, due to the passage of time
or a change in circumstances, the issues presented will no
longer be live or the parties will no longer have a legally
cognizable interest in the outcome of the litigation."
Id. Here, the only "wrong" that Mr. Purdom
alleges against Mr. Morgan is the threat of imminent
prosecution for failure to vacate under the Old Statute. The
Old and New Statutes both state that failure to vacate is a
misdemeanor. See Ark. Code Ann. § 18-16-101
(b)(1). Interestingly, the Arkansas Supreme Court has
characterized an older version of the statute as a
"violation, " rather than as a misdemeanor. See
Duhon v. State, 299 Ark. 503, 511 (1989). But
regardless, the statute of limitations for prosecuting a
"[m]isdemeanor or violation" in Arkansas is
"one (1) year." Ark. Code Ann. §
Purdom's Amended Complaint and in his Statement of
Undisputed Material Facts, he states that he "vacated
the property on August 8, 2016." See Doc. 51,
¶ 27; Doc. 53-2, ¶ 14. Thus, it is now well over
one year past the latest possible date when Mr. Purdom could
have failed to vacate the Lewises' property. In other
words, regardless of whether any crime was actually
committed, the statute of limitations for prosecuting it
appears to have run. Given this state of affairs, there is no
reasonable expectation that Mr. Morgan will ever prosecute
Mr. Purdom for failing to vacate the Lewises' property.
Accordingly, Mr. Purdom's claims against Mr. Morgan are
moot. And since their mootness deprives this Court of
jurisdiction over them, see Beauiieu, 690 F.3d at
1024, the Court must dismiss them without prejudice instead
of reaching their merits, see Cnty, of Mille Lacs v.
Benjamin, 361 F.3d 460, 464-65 (8th Cir. 2004) ("A
district court is generally barred from dismissing a case
with prejudice if it concludes subject-matter jurisdiction is
THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff Mitchell Purdom's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. 53) is DENIED.
FURTHER ORDERED that Mr. Purdom's claims against
Defendant Roger Morgan are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. As no
claims remain pending against any defendant in this case,