SAMS FOOD MART, LLC, ABDUL KAHN, SAUDABBAD CONVENIENCE, INC., MOHAMMAD SIDDIQUI, Plaintiffs,
TOWN OF MIDDLETOWN, Defendant, and THE STOP & SHOP SUPERMARKET COMPANY, LLC, MAXI DRUG SOUTH, L.P., COLBEA ENTERPRISES, LLC, CUMBERLAND FARMS, INC., AQUIDNECK PACKAGE STORE, INC., SHAWS SUPERMARKET, INC., BJS WHOLESALE CLUB, INC., NEWPORT NATIONAL GOLF CLUB, INC., MICHAEL SANTOS d/b/a SANDY'S LIQUORS, SKEES REALTY, LTD., BEACH LIQUORS, LLC, SPEEDWAY, LLC, 7-ELEVEN, INC., WALGREEN EASTERN CO., INC., ANDREW'S AT EASTGATE, LTD., SPLASH ECIG AND VAPOR EMPORIUM, LLC, Interested Parties.
Plaintiff: Peter F. Skwirz, Esq.
Defendant: Peter B. Regan, Esq.; Mark T. Boivin, Esq.
(Interested Parties): Joseph Avanzato, Esq.;
Sonja L. DeYoe, Esq.; Joshua Carlin, Esq.; Speedway, LLC
this Court is a complaint for declaratory judgment and
injunctive relief with respect to the Town of
Middletown's (Middletown) Tobacco Ordinance. Plaintiffs
seek a declaration from the Court that the Tobacco Ordinance
is unconstitutional, exceeding the constitutional authority
of the municipality. Jurisdiction is pursuant to the Uniform
Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA), G.L. 1956 §§
9-30-1, et seq.
December 4, 2017, the Middletown Town Council adopted an
ordinance regulating the sale of tobacco (Tobacco Ordinance).
Middletown Code of Ordinances § 119; Am. Compl. ¶
26. The Tobacco Ordinance requires anyone selling tobacco
products in Middletown to obtain a "tobacco dealer's
license from the Town Council," and pay an annual fee of
$100. Middletown Code of Ordinances § 119.02.
Additionally, the Tobacco Ordinance prohibits the use of
coupons or volume discounts with the sale of tobacco as well
as the sale of any flavored tobacco products. Middletown Code
of Ordinances §§ 119.05(D), (E).
Plaintiffs are owners and operators of retail stores in
Middletown which sell tobacco products. Plaintiffs Mohammad
Siddiqui and Saudabbad Convenience, Inc. operate a store
known as Newport Mart located at 52 East Main Road in the
Town of Middletown. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs Abdul
Khan and Sams Food Mart, LLC operate a store known as
Sam's Food Mart located at 356 West Main Road in the Town
of Middletown. Am. Compl. ¶ 2. The Plaintiffs have
separate licenses to sell tobacco products from the State
Division of Taxation under G.L. 1956 §§ 44-20-1,
et seq. and/or from the Department of Health
pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 23-1-56. Am. Compl. ¶ 31.
Middletown Town Council initially enacted a similar ordinance
on June 19, 2017, but the Plaintiffs asserted a violation of
the Open Meetings Act, G.L. 1956 §§ 42-46-1, et
seq. as part of their initial Complaint on October 26,
2017. See Middletown Code of Ordinances § 118;
Compl. ¶¶ 33-39. Pursuant to a consent order
entered on December 4, 2017, enforcement of Chapter 118 was
stayed. The new Tobacco Ordinance Chapter 119 was enacted on
December 4, 2017. See Am. Compl. ¶ 26. In their
Amended Complaint filed on December 5, 2017, the Plaintiffs
request declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging the
Tobacco Ordinance is unconstitutional under the Rhode Island
Constitution and is therefore null and void. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 37-40. Pursuant to a consent order entered on
February 6, 2018, Middletown agreed to be temporarily
enjoined from enforcing the Tobacco Ordinance until further
order of this Court.
the UDJA, the Superior Court possesses the '"power
to declare rights, status, and other legal relations whether
or not further relief is or could be claimed."' Sec.
9-30-1; see also P.J.C. Realty, Inc. v. Barry, 811
A.2d 1202, 1207 (R.I. 2002) (quoting § 9-30-1). The
Court's power under UDJA is broadly construed, and allows
the trial justice to "facilitate the termination of
controversies[.]" Malachowski v. State, 877
A.2d 649, 656 (R.I. 2005). Therefore, the plaintiff must
present the Court with an actual controversy when seeking
declaratory relief. Millett v. Hoisting Eng'rs'
Licensing Div. of Dep't of Labor, 119 R.I. 285, 291,
377 A.2d 229, 233 (1977). Further, it is well-established
that a trial court's "decision to grant or to deny
declaratory relief under the [UDJA] is purely
discretionary." Sullivan v. Chafee, 703 A.2d
748, 751 (R.I. 1997).
deciding whether to issue a preliminary injunction, the
hearing justice should determine whether the moving party (1)
has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, (2)
will suffer irreparable harm without the requested injunctive
relief, (3) has the balance of the equities, including the
possible hardships to each party and to the public interest,
tip in its favor, and (4) has shown that the issuance of a
preliminary injunction will preserve the status quo."
Iggy's Doughboys, Inc. v. Giroux, 729 A.2d 701,
705 (R.I. 1999). When deciding upon the constitutional
validity of a municipal enactment, it is true that "[a]
plaintiff is generally entitled to injunctive relief when a
municipality seeks to enforce an invalid ordinance."
Women & Infants Hosp. v. City of Providence, 527