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Compton v. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 18, 2015

SANDRA COMPTON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY, INC., et al., Defendants

For SANDRA COMPTON, SOROR, LAURIN COMPTON, LESSIE COFIELD, SOROR, LAUREN COFIELD, Plaintiffs: Jon Wyndal Gordon, THE LAW OFFICE OF J. WYNDAL GORDON, P.A., Baltimore, MD.

For ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY INCORPORATED, Defendant: Justin Michael Flint, LEAD ATTORNEY, ECCLESTON & WOLF, Washington, DC; Laura M.K. Hassler, ECCLESTON & WOLF, P.C., Washington, DC.

For HOWARD UNIVERSITY, Defendant: Lydia Auzoux, LEAD ATTORNEY, HOWARD UNIVERSITY, Washington, DC.

OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs Sandra Compton and Lessie Cofield are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. They and their daughters filed suit against the Sorority and Howard University, alleging that the Sorority wrongfully denied the daughters' entry into the Sorority's Alpha Chapter at Howard University. The Court dismissed the majority of Plaintiffs' claims and Howard University as a party, leaving only two counts of ultra vires action against the Sorority. See Op. [Dkt. 36]; Order [Dkt. 37]. Subsequently, the Sorority reinstated Mses. Compton and Cofield. Because full relief has been provided, this case has been rendered moot and will be dismissed.

I. FACTS

Sandra Compton and Lessie Cofield are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Sorority or AKA). AKA was founded in 1908 at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and thus the Sorority's Howard Chapter is known as the " Alpha Chapter." Both Ms. Compton and Ms. Cofield dreamed for years that their daughters, Laurin Compton and Lauren Cofield, would join AKA's Alpha Chapter. The daughters entered Howard University as freshmen in the fall of 2009 and were deemed AKA Legacy Candidates, i.e., " the daughters, granddaughters, adopted daughters or legal wards of an active or deceased soror." See Opp'n [Dkt. 32], Ex. 1 (AKA Constitution & Bylaws) [Dkt. 32-3], Art. IV, § 14. Generally, Legacy Candidates receive preferential treatment over non-Legacy Candidates in the Sorority selection process. Despite their status as Legacy Candidates, the daughters were not selected as members of the Alpha Chapter.[1]

As a result, Ms. Compton, Ms. Cofield, and their daughters filed suit against the Sorority and Howard, alleging a host of claims including breach of contract and negligence. See Compl. [Dkt. 1]. On March 4, 2013, the Sorority withdrew Mses. Compton and Cofield's membership privileges, claiming that the filing of the lawsuit violated the Sorority's Constitution and Bylaws. Letter to Compton dated 3/4/13 [Dkt. 14-1]; Cofield Aff. [Dkt. 14-1].

Subsequently, Plaintiffs sought to file a First Amended Complaint, see Mot. for Leave [Dkt. 23], but the motion was held in abeyance while the parties attempted mediation. Mediation failed. The Court then denied leave to file the First Amended Complaint, but granted leave to file a Second Amended Complaint,[2] see 2d Am. Compl. [Dkt. 29].

Each Defendant moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint in its entirety. After the motions were adjudicated, the Court dismissed most of the Second Amended Complaint and dismissed Howard University as a party; only Counts Three and Six remain.[3] These Counts allege ultra vires claims against the Sorority, i.e., that the Sorority acted without any authority and withdrew Mses. Compton and Cofield's membership privileges in retaliation for their filing this lawsuit.[4] 2d Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 74, 96. The ultra vires Counts seek compensatory damages and " such other and further relief deemed fair and just." Id. ¶ ¶ 75, 97. Following the Court's ruling on the motions to dismiss, the Sorority wrote to Mses. Compton and Cofield reinstating their memberships in AKA " with no break in service." See Letters [Dkt. 43-2]. The Sorority granted them reinstatement to " active status and in good standing." Id. Further, the Sorority refunded Ms. Compton a $175 fee she paid for a conference that she was unable to attend due to her membership termination.

Despite their reinstatement, Plaintiffs still seek other equitable remedies. See Mot. for Equitable Remedies [Dkt. 41]. The Sorority objects, insisting that the only remedy for the ultra vires claims is reinstatement, which has been provided. Opp'n [Dkt. 43]. Because Mses. Compton and Cofield have received all available relief, this case is moot.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under the U.S. Constitution, federal courts are limited to deciding " actual, ongoing controversies." Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 317, 108 S.Ct. 592, 98 L.Ed.2d 686 (1988). That is, a court has no jurisdiction to adjudicate a matter where there is no longer a case or controversy, and a case that has become moot must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Flores v. District of Columbia, 437 F.Supp.2d 22, 27-28 (D.D.C. 2006); see also Jones v. Ashcroft, 321 F.Supp.2d 1, 5 (D.D.C. 2004) (a court has " an affirmative obligation to insure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority." )

No justiciable controversy is presented when the question sought to be adjudicated has been mooted by subsequent developments. Associated Gen'l Contractors of Am. v. City of Columbus, 172 F.3d 411, 419 (6th Cir. 1999). " Even where the litigation posed a live controversy when filed, the [mootness] doctrine requires a federal court to refrain from deciding it if events have so transpired that the decision will neither presently affect the parties' 'rights nor have a more-than-speculative chance of affecting them in the future.'" Clarke v. United States, 915 F.2d 699, 701, 286 U.S.App.D.C. 256 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). A case is moot if a defendant can demonstrate that two conditions have been met: (1) interim relief or events have completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects of the alleged violation; and (2) there is no reasonable expectation that the alleged wrong(s) will be repeated. Doe v. Harris, 696 F.2d 109, 111, 225 U.S.App.D.C. 27 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (citing County of Los ...


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