United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. BOASBERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
November 9, 2017, this Court issued a decision enjoining
Defendant American Federation of Government Employees to
reinstate Plaintiff Eugene Hudson to his position as National
Secretary-Treasurer. See ECF Nos. 12, 13. AFGE now
moves for an emergency stay of that Order until January 2,
2018, by which time it asserts it will have completed new
disciplinary proceedings to remove him. See ECF No.
14. While the Court appreciates that Defendant has responded
promptly to the Order, it nonetheless finds that the relevant
factors weigh against such a stay. The Motion, accordingly,
will be denied.
explained in detail in the prior Memorandum Opinion, this
suit concerns AFGE's removal of Hudson from his elected
position as National Secretary-Treasurer. The charges that
ultimately culminated in this discipline stem from an email
blast that he sent using an AFGE computer, email address, and
staff member to “several hundred AFGE officers and
members” at both personal and governmental addresses.
See Compl., ¶¶ 9, 11. The blast questioned
whether AFGE, as an organization, was ready for an attack on
organized labor from President-Elect Trump and a
Republican-controlled Congress. See Compl., Exh. 1.
The email - which had not been reviewed by anyone else at
AFGE - quickly drew the ire of several Union officials.
National Vice-President filed charges against Hudson for
alleged violations of the AFGE Constitution, a Committee of
Investigation deliberated and decided probable cause existed
to refer the charges to the National Executive Committee.
See Compl., Exh. 3. Over Hudson's protests, NVP
Gerald Swanke - an officer who had previously filed an
unrelated charge against Hudson - chaired the three-person
Committee. See Compl., ¶ 26. One month later,
the NEC met, deliberated, and found Hudson guilty of three
violations of the AFGE Constitution; it also voted to remove
him from office as a penalty. See Compl., ¶ 49.
Hudson timely appealed the ruling to the National Convention
pursuant to the AFGE Constitution, but the Convention does
not take place - and thus no ruling will issue - until August
September 2017, Plaintiff filed this suit and a Motion for
Preliminary Injunction. The Court heard argument on October
26 and released its Opinion granting Plaintiff's Motion
on November 9. Although Hudson raised multiple challenges to
his removal, the Opinion only focused on one: his claim that
AFGE violated the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure
Act's requirement for a full and fair hearing before a
union may discipline a member. The Court found that Hudson
had made the necessary showing that it was likely that
Swanke's position as chair of the Committee created
“a significant risk of actual bias.” Mem. Op. at
13 (quoting Wildberger v. Am. Fed'n of Gov't
Emps., 86 F.3d 1188, 1196 (D.C. Cir. 1996)). The Court
also found that the other three preliminary-injunction
factors - irreparable harm, balance of the equities, and the
public interest - weighed in favor of granting the
injunction. Id. at 14-16. The Court, accordingly,
ordered that AFGE “reinstate Hudson to his position as
National Secretary-Treasurer effective immediately.”
Id. at 17.
now asks the Court to stay such reinstatement pending a new
disciplinary hearing. The Union explains that the selection
of a new and impartial Committee is already underway and that
the full disciplinary process will be completed by January 2,
2018. See Mot. at 2. Although AFGE styles its
request as a Motion for a Stay of the Injunction, it is more
accurately a motion to modify the injunction, and the Court
construes it as such. See Fox Television Stations, Inc.
v. FilmOn X, LLC, 968 F.Supp.2d 134, 139-40 (D.D.C.
2013) (treating motion for reconsideration of preliminary
injunction as motion to modify). This triggers a different
standard from a request for a stay pending appeal, which is
not at issue here. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 62(c);
Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)
(stating standard for stay of injunction pending appeal).
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) permits a court to
“relieve a party . . . from a[n] . . . order”
when “applying it prospectively is no longer
equitable” or upon a showing of “any . . . reason
that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(5), (6). A
court may, accordingly, modify an injunction pursuant to that
rule in its “equitable discretion.” Trump v.
Int'l Refugee Assistance Project, 137 S.Ct. 2080,
2087 (2017) (granting stay of and modifying preliminary
injunction) (citing Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418,
433 (2009) (assessing whether to stay an alien's removal
pending judicial review)). In determining whether such relief
is warranted, “[i]t is ultimately necessary . . . to
balance the equities - to explore the relative harms to
applicant and respondent, as well as the interests of the
public at large.” Id. (alteration in original)
(citation omitted). “The party seeking modification
‘bears the burden of establishing that a significant
change in circumstances warrants [its] revisions.'”
Gov't of Province of Manitoba v. Zinke, 849 F.3d
1111, 1117 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Rufo v. Inmates of
Suffolk Cty. Jail, 502 U.S. 367, 383 (1992)) (alteration
in original). It is appropriate to modify an injunction
“only when there has been a change” in the facts
or law “between entry of the injunction and the filing
of the motion that would render the continuance of the
injunction in its original form inequitable.”
FilmOn X, 968 F.Supp.2d at 140 (citation omitted).
Ultimately, the court must, in its discretion, decide
“whether the requested modification effectuates or
thwarts the purpose behind the injunction.” Sierra
Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 732 F.2d 253, 257
(2d Cir. 1984).
deciding whether to exercise its discretion and stay the
injunction pending a new disciplinary hearing, the Court
begins from the basic premise that the “purpose of a
preliminary injunction is merely to preserve the relative
positions of the parties until a trial on the merits can be
held.” Univ. of Tex. v. Camenisch, 451 U.S.
390, 395 (1981). The status quo - “the last
uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy,
” District 50, United Mine Workers of Am. v.
Int'l Union, United Mine Workers, 412 F.2d 165, 168
(D.C. Cir. 1969) (citation omitted) - is with Hudson in the
NST position. That is what the Court's injunction
accomplished pending a final decision on the merits. See
Yablonski v. United Mine Workers of Am., 459 F.2d 1201,
1202 (D.C. Cir. 1972) (reinstating plaintiff as Acting
Director). AFGE urges this Court to use its discretion to
stay the reinstatement because the Union will incur wasted
“effort and confusion . . . upon restoring Plaintiff to
duty . . . if he is then removed again.” Mot. at 3.
Such an argument, however, almost presupposes the outcome.
For example, Defendant cites Chance v. Champion Spark
Plug, Co., 732 F.Supp. 605 (D. Md. 1990), where a
district court found that reinstatement was inappropriate
because the plaintiff “intended to retire” in
less than one month. Id. at 610. Here, by contrast,
there is no certainty that Hudson will be reinstated only for
a short time. Until he receives a new hearing, no one knows
whether he will continue to be NST or not come January.
the Court considers the “changed circumstances.”
Zinke, 849 F.3d at 1117. The only thing that has
changed between the Court's entry of its Order on
November 9 and AFGE's Motion is its decision to
constitute a new Committee of Investigation. See
Mot., Exh. 1 (Declaration of Cheryl Eliano), ¶ 4. That
simply does not rise to the level necessary to warrant a
departure from the Order. See Agostini v. Felton,
521 U.S. 203, 216 (1997) (costs of complying with injunction
were known at the time district court entered order and
therefore did not constitute “significant change in
the Court weighs the “relative harms.”
IRAP, 137 S.Ct. at 2087. AFGE's argument boils
down to administrative inconvenience. If it reinstates Hudson
and then a new tribunal again finds him guilty, the Union
will have to “process a return to work and . . .
reprocess another removal within two months, ” a feat
it claims is “impractical.” Mot. at 3. Although
this may add to the Union's workload, such a harm seems
fairly slight. Defendant also obliquely cites
“confusion and poor staff morale” that occurs
when an employee is restored while under threat of removal.
Id. at 2-3. Yet this cuts both ways, as discipline
based on allegedly biased processes can also lead to
“poor staff morale.” On the other side of the
ledger, the irreparable harm on which the Court relied in the
prior Opinion still will persist in the next two months.
Hudson was elected NST, and, until a new hearing is
conducted, each day that he is out of office he is denied the
benefit of his elected representative. See Mem. Op.
at 15. Plaintiff alleges, for example, that there are
executive meetings that, as an officer, he is entitled to be
a part of. See Opp. at 2. Any inconvenience to AFGE
is thus outweighed by this hardship to Plaintiff.