May 27, 1987.
Keith C. Tischler, Jack M. Skelding, Jr., Parker, Skelding, Costigan, McVoy Labasky, Tallahassee, Fla., for plaintiffs-appellants.
Nikki Clayton, Sanford, Fla., Howard R. Marsee, Richard D. Roggenkamp, Hanna, Marsee, Beik Voght, Orlando, Fla., for defendant-appellee.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Plaintiffs challenged, on equal protection and due process grounds, an ordinance of the defendant county which precludes the location of mobile homes in areas which are not zoned for them. They raised a plethora of other claims below, including federal preemption and antitrust, but the dismissal of those claims has not been appealed. At the close of plaintiffs' evidence, the district court entered its findings of fact and conclusions of law and entered a judgment of involuntary dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). The district court carefully considered the plaintiffs' constitutional claims in a thorough opinion, a copy of which is attached as an appendix to this order. We affirm on the basis of that opinion.
We write briefly, however, to consider the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claim that Florida law preempts the county ordinance. This claim was dismissed, along with plaintiffs' federal antitrust and federal preemption claims in a one page memorandum order, which stated that the claims were dismissed "without prejudice and without leave to amend." The order did not specify any reasons for the dismissal.
While the failure of a lower court to give reasons for its disposition of an action makes review difficult, it does not necessarily preclude affirmance where appropriate reasons for dismissal are readily apparent. See Horton v. Goose Creek Independent School District, 690 F.2d 470, 484 (5th Cir. 1982) ( per curiam), cert. denied, 463 U.S. 1207, 103 S.Ct. 3536, 77 L.Ed.2d 1387 (1983). Appellees argue, and we agree, that the district court could properly have declined, in its discretion, to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the state law claim. Exercising pendent jurisdiction over the claim would have required the district court to decide a novel question of state law that was by no means clear cut. Such "needless decisions of state law" are to be avoided. See Moor v. County of Alameda, 411 U.S. 693, 715-17, 93 S.Ct. 1785, 1799, 36 L.Ed.2d 596 (1973) United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 1139, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966); see also Grubb v. W.A. Foote Memorial Hospital, Inc., 741 F.2d 1486, 1500 (6th Cir. 1984) (Respect for state courts as the primary expositors of state law counsels restraint by federal court in announcing new state law principles, a factor appropriately considered by the district court in declining, in its discretion to hear a pendent state law claim.), vacated on other grounds, 759 F.2d 546 (6th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 342, 88 L.Ed.2d 289 (1985); Financial General Bankshares, Inc. v. Metzger, 680 F.2d 768 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (district court abused discretion by exercising pendent jurisdiction over novel and unsettled questions of District of Columbia law). As defendant concedes, the district court's order specifying that the dismissal was "without prejudice" left plaintiffs free to pursue their state law claim in the Florida courts. We agree that those courts, rather than the federal district courts, are the appropriate fora for that claim.