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Miniter v. Moon

February 16, 2010

RICHARD MINITER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUN MYUNG MOON ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 2

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. The plaintiff, a former employee of defendant the Washington Times brings suit against the Washington Times, LLC ("the Washington Times" or "the newspaper") and other defendants alleging breach of contract, promissory estoppel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false light, unfair trade practices and violations of the Lanham Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1125(b). The plaintiff seeks an order enjoining the defendants from "dissipating, moving, hiding, or secreting their assets" during the pendency of this litigation. Because the plaintiff has failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits or irreparable injury, the court denies his motion for a preliminary injunction.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff worked for the Washington Times from February 2009 through September 2009. Compl. ¶¶ 45, 67; Washington Times's Answer ("Answer") ¶¶ 45, 67. The plaintiff was initially employed as a consultant and was eventually hired as the Editorial Page Editor and Vice President of Opinion. Compl. ¶¶ 25, 40; Answer ¶¶ 25, 40. Defendant Sun Myung Moon allegedly controls the newspaper, as well as defendants Unification Church International, News World Communications, LLC of Delaware, News World Communications, Inc. and One Up Enterprises, Inc. Compl. ¶ 4. Defendant Preston Moon is, according to the plaintiff, the son of Sun Myung Moon and the plaintiff alleges that Preston Moon also exerts control over the corporate defendants. Id. ¶ 6. Defendant Beth Wolffe and her firm provide legal representation to the Washington Times. Id. ¶ 9; Answer ¶ 9. The other individually named defendants are employees of the Washington Times. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8; Answer ¶¶ 7-8.

In July 2009, defendant Sonya Jenkins, Vice President of Human Resources for the Washington Times and Thomas McDevitt, the then-President and Publisher of the newspaper, called the plaintiff into a meeting and instructed the plaintiff to begin working from home pending an investigation into his management practices. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 18, 55-56, 60; Answer ¶¶ 8, 18, 55-56, 60. The plaintiff alleges that neither Jenkins nor McDevitt provided any explanation for taking this action, and the plaintiff contends that it was taken in retaliation for an earlier encounter with Jenkins.*fn1 Compl. ¶¶ 60-62.

On September 22, 2009, Jenkins notified the plaintiff that the newspaper would stop paying him if he did not sign a new employment contract. Id. ¶ 67; Answer ¶ 67. The new contract included different job duties and a reduction in the plaintiff's base salary, Compl. ¶ 66; Answer ¶ 66, and "was completely incongruent with [the plaintiff's] career goals and expertise," Compl. ¶ 66.

The plaintiff filed suit on December 8, 2009, alleging breach of contract, promissory estoppel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false light, unfair trade practices and violations of the Lanham Act. Compl. ¶¶ 82-98. The plaintiff seeks a preliminary injunction prohibiting the newspaper*fn2 from "dissipating, disposing of or secreting assets, and from destroying or hiding evidence." Pl.'s Mot. at 4. The motion is now ripe and the court turns now to the applicable legal standard and the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Injunctive Relief

This court may issue interim injunctive relief only when the movant demonstrates "[1] that he is likely to succeed on the merits, [2] that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, [3] that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and [4] that an injunction is in the public interest." Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 129 S.Ct. 365, 374 (2008) (citing Munaf v. Geren, 128 S.Ct. 2207, 2218-19 (2008)). It is particularly important for the movant to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. Cf. Benten v. Kessler, 505 U.S. 1084, 1085 (1992) (per curiam). Indeed, absent a "substantial indication" of likely success on the merits, "there would be no justification for the court's intrusion into the ordinary processes of administration and judicial review." Am. Bankers Ass'n v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 38 F. Supp. 2d 114, 140 (D.D.C. 1999) (internal quotation omitted).

The other critical factor in the injunctive relief analysis is irreparable injury. A movant must "demonstrate that irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction." Winter, 129 S.Ct. at 375 (citing Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 103 (1983)). Indeed, if a party fails to make a sufficient showing of irreparable injury, the court may deny the motion for injunctive relief without considering the other factors. CityFed Fin. Corp. v. Office of Thrift Supervision, 58 F.3d 738, 747 (D.C. Cir. 1986).Provided the plaintiff demonstrates a likelihood of success on the merits and of irreparable injury, the court "must balance the competing claims of injury and must consider the effect on each party of the granting or withholding of the requested relief." Amoco Prod. Co. v. Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, ...


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