Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

COALITION v. LEGAL SERVS. CORP.

October 26, 1984

COALITION FOR LEGAL SERVICES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON, JR.

 AUBREY E. ROBINSON, Jr., Chief Judge.

 The matter presently before the Court began with a complaint and motion for temporary restraining order filed by the Coalition for Legal Services (Coalition). The Coalition, Plaintiffs in this action, contended that the Defendant Legal Services Corporation (Corporation), violated the Government in the Sunshine Act (Sunshine Act), 5 U.S.C. ยง 552b(e), by not providing at least seven (7) days actual notice to the public of its October 13, 1983 meeting concerning critical policy changes. The Defendant opposed the motion for temporary restraining order arguing that there had been sufficient public announcement of the meeting. A temporary restraining order was entered by Judge Barrington D. Parker on October 12, 1983. Plaintiffs have now filed a motion for summary judgment based upon the same allegation of a Sunshine Act violation. Defendant opposes a summary judgment and argues that the Corporation is entitled to a "declaration of rights" with respect to the manner in which it must announce its meetings.

 STATEMENT OF FACTS

 On September 16, 1983, the Federal Register published notice that the Corporation would hold a meeting of its Board of Directors on October 4, 1983 in Washington, D.C. 48 Fed.Reg. 41,672 (1983). The notice indicated that the agenda for that meeting would include consideration of several major policy changes. Specifically, the Board was to consider changes in (1) the criteria for determining eligibility to receive the agency's legal assistance, (2) the procedures regarding the denial of refunding to recipient organizations and (3) the regulation of membership fees and dues paid by local legal services programs to bar associations and other professional groups. These three proposals had been the subject of notice and comment rulemaking and had generated considerable interest and response from the public. Also scheduled for discussion was a new "instruction" from the Corporation to local legal services organizations regarding the extent to which Corporation funds were to be used to involve the private bar in the provision of legal services to the poor. This "instruction" had not been the subject of notice and comment rulemaking; the October 4, 1983 meeting would have been an opportunity for the public to render comment on the proposed "instruction." Further, this meeting was to be the public's last chance to influence the Board's decision on the other policy proposals concerning the delivery of legal services to the poor.

 The meeting scheduled for October 4, 1983 was cancelled on Monday, October 3, 1983. Notice of the cancellation appeared in the Federal Register one day after the scheduled meeting, on Wednesday, October 5, 1983. The cancellation indicated that no new date, time or place had been set for the Board's consideration of the proposed policy changes. The next day, Thursday, October 6, 1983, a second identical notice was received by the Office of the Federal Register and scheduled for publication in the Wednesday, October 12, 1983 issue of the Federal Register. On the same day, October 6, 1983, the Corporation submitted a notice rescheduling the October 4, 1983 meeting to Thursday, October 13, 1983. Instead of Washington, D.C., the meeting was to be held at 8:00 a.m. in Salt Lake City, Utah. Notice of the rescheduled date, time and place appeared in the Wednesday, October 12, 1983 issue of the Federal Register. 48 Fed.Reg. 46,468 (1983). While Defendant maintains that the second notice of cancellation was published in error, in fact, such a notice did appear in the Federal Register on Tuesday, October 11, 1983. 48 Fed.Reg. 46,130 (1983). The relatively long delay from submission to publication of these two notices was due to the three-day weekend for Columbus Day. On the day following published notice and the day of the rescheduled meeting, Thursday, October 13, 1983, the Federal Register contained a "correction" announcing that the October 11, 1983 notice stating that no new date, time or place had been set for the meeting was a duplicate of the October 5, 1983 notice and should not have been published.

 The confusion surrounding notice to the public through the Federal Register is compounded by the fact that many persons receiving the publication by mail subscription receive it with at least one day's delay. Thus, many subscribers would have received the issue containing the second cancellation notice on October 12, and therefore, been misled since the meeting had already been scheduled to go forward the next day; these subscribers would have received the issue containing notice of the 8:00 a.m. meeting on the day the meeting was to take place, October 13, 1983.

 Although publication in the Federal Register is not an exclusive means for communicating notice of Sunshine Act meetings to the public, it assumes special importance in this instance since the Corporation chose not to take steps it had routinely followed in the past to inform the public of its meetings. In the past the Corporation had (1) mailed notice of meetings to members of the press and (2) directly furnished notice to interested groups. In its opposition to summary judgment the Corporation argues that it had no duty to take these steps. However, the Corporation does have a duty to reasonably and fully inform the public of its meetings. The avenues used in the past had helped the agency fulfill its duty and, with respect to this meeting, might have countered the reliance on the Federal Register announcements.

 Moreover, while not exclusive, the contradictory notices which appeared in the Federal Register are at least illustrative of the climate of confusion which surrounded notifying the public of the meeting, cancellation and rescheduling. For example, the Defendant claims to have had notices of the rescheduled meeting date, October 13, 1983 meeting placed on its public bulletin boards on October 6, 1983. However, there is no indication that the cancellation notices, posted on October 3, were ever removed. Therefore, persons perusing the bulletin boards could have read the cancellation notice, logically ceased to look further and therefore missed the notice which rescheduled the Board meeting.

 It was under these circumstances that the Coalition filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order on October 12, 1983. The motion was heard and granted by Judge Barrington D. Parker on that date. The temporary restraining order was scheduled to expire on October 22, 1983 but was extended for an additional ten (10) days by this Court. At a status hearing held Tuesday, October 25, 1983, the Court learned that the Defendant would give at least seven (7) days notice to the public and hold its meeting on November 7, 1983 in San Francisco California. Sufficient notice was given; the meeting was held and well attended by the public. Ultimately, the meeting was had, without question, in accordance with the provisions of the Sunshine Act.

 DISCUSSION

 "In general, a case becomes moot where the activities for which an injunction is sought have already occurred and cannot be undone." Monzillo v. Biller, 237 U.S. App. D.C. 20, 735 F.2d 1456, 1459 (D.C.Cir.1984). Since the meeting upon which this action was predicated has been held in accordance with the statute, this controversy is effectively moot. Remaining for the Court's consideration is the disposition of the $1,000 security bond posted by Plaintiffs. The security bond was ordered pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(c), which provides, in relevant part:

 
No restraining order or preliminary injunction shall issue except upon the giving of security by the applicant, in such sum as the Court deems proper, for the payment of such costs and damages as may be incurred or suffered by any party who is found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.