United States District Court, District of Columbia
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
American Federation of Government Employees
(“AFGE”) placed one of its local chapters, Local
12, under trusteeship and cancelled the Local 12 elections of
officers that were scheduled to take place two weeks later.
Dkt. 1-1 at 9-11. Plaintiff Benoit Brookens, proceeding
pro se, had planned to run for several positions
and, after the elections were cancelled, he filed this action
in D.C. Superior Court challenging the imposition of
trusteeship. See Dkt. 1-1. AFGE removed the case to
this Court, Dkt. 1, and has now moved to dismiss for lack of
standing and for failure to state a claim, Dkt. 26. Because
Brookens lacks Article III standing to maintain this action
in federal court, and because 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)
mandates that district courts remand removed actions
“[i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that
the . . . court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, ”
the Court will GRANT in part and
DENY in part AFGE's motion to dismiss
and will REMAND the case to D.C. Superior
a former Department of Labor employee, alleges that he is a
member of AFGE Local 12. Dkt. 1-1 at 1 (Compl. ¶ 3).
Local 12 was scheduled to conduct elections for several
positions on October 18, 2017. Id. (Compl.
¶¶ 1, 3-4). On October 4, 2017, however, AFGE
notified the membership of Local 12 that it was placing the
Local under trusteeship “to safeguard and protect the
Local.” Id. at 10 (memorandum from AFGE
National President to members of Local 12). Following
imposition of the trusteeship, AFGE cancelled the October
elections, removed the existing officers and ex officio
delegates from the offices that they held at that time, and
authorized the trustee “to appoint a
secretary-treasurer and any other officers he deem[ed]
necessary to assist him.” Id. at 9-10. Those
actions have given rise to another lawsuit now pending in
this Court brought by the officers who were removed at the
time the trustee was appointed. See Bastani v. Am. Fed.
of Gov't Emps., No. 18-63 (D.D.C.).
Brookens was not an officer of Local 12 at the time the
trusteeship was imposed, he had hoped to participate in the
upcoming elections. Dkt. 1-1 at 1 (Compl. ¶ 4). Unhappy
with the imposition of the trusteeship and the cancellation
of those elections, Brookens filed this action in D.C.
Superior Court on October 16, 2017 and, simultaneously, moved
for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary
injunction. Dkt. 1-1 at 1; Dkt. 1-2 at 1; Dkt. 1-3 at 1.
Eight days later, AFGE removed the action to this Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1446(b), 1441(a).
See Dkt. 1.
alleges that he “was a candidate, in the October 18,
2017 election[s], for the positions of Head Steward, Delegate
to the AFGE National Convention, scheduled for August 2018,
and Delegate to the AFGE Council, ” id. at 1
(Compl. ¶ 4), but was notified “[o]n October 4,
2017 . . . that the election[s]” had been
“cancelled” because Local 12 had been placed in
trusteeship, id. at 4 (Compl. ¶ 17). According
to Brookens's complaint, AFGE's decision to place
Local 12 in trusteeship, and the resulting cancellation of
the elections, violated the Labor-Management Reporting and
Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”), 29 U.S.C.
§ 401 et seq., in numerous respects. Those
alleged violations correspond with the six causes of action
set forth in the complaint, each of which alleges a distinct
violation of the LMRDA. See Dkt. 1-1 at 4-7 (Compl.
¶¶ 20-45) (citing violations of 29 U.S.C.
§§ 462, 481, 484).
weeks after his case was removed to this Court, Brookens
renewed his motions for a temporary restraining order and a
preliminary injunction, requesting that the Court dissolve
the trusteeship and restore Local 12's authority. Dkt.
13; Dkt. 14. AFGE, in turn, moved to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.
Dkt. 8. On January 5, 2018, the Court heard argument on those
motions. Dkt. 18. At the hearing, Brookens clarified that his
“only claim in this case” is that AFGE “did
not follow the proper procedures in placing [AFGE] [L]ocal
 in trusteeship, ” and, in particular, that it did
not “satisfy” “the factors set forth in
Article IX, Section 5(a)(1) through (4)” of AFGE's
constitution. Id. at 38, 41 (Oral Arg. Tr. 38:14-15,
41:6-9). The Court, ruling from the bench, denied
Brookens's motion for a temporary restraining order and
held the motion for a preliminary injunction in abeyance to
afford Brookens the opportunity to retain counsel. Minute
Entry (Jan. 5, 2018). The Court also offered Brookens the
opportunity to supplement his motion for a preliminary
injunction, regardless of whether he was able to retain an
attorney. See Dkt. 18 at 30 (Oral Arg. Tr.
course of the argument, the Court also asked Brookens to
describe the “personal injury” that he alleges he
has sustained-or is sustaining-due to AFGE's actions.
Id. at 42 (Oral Arg Tr. 42:15-17). Although
Brookens's response was not entirely clear, he appeared
to argue that imposition of the trusteeship led to the
cancellation of the Local 12 elections and thus deprived him
of the opportunity to run for office. To avoid any
uncertainty on this issue, and to help determine whether it
has jurisdiction over Brookens's claims, the Court
instructed Brookens to “submit evidence”
establishing that he has “standing under Article III of
the Constitution.” Id. at 43 (Oral Arg. Tr.
43:15-24). The Court also denied AFGE's motion to dismiss
without prejudice but granted AFGE leave to file a renewed
motion to dismiss in combination with its opposition to
Brookens's motion for a preliminary injunction.
Id. at 35-36 (Oral Arg. Tr. 35:17- 36:3).
filed a supplement to his motion for a preliminary injunction
on January 17, 2018, Dkt. 19, and AFGE renewed its motion to
dismiss approximately a month later, Dkt. 26. Brookens, in
turn, filed a combined reply and opposition, Dkt. 28, and
AFGE filed a reply, Dkt. 30. The Court, then, heard oral
argument on Brookens's motion for a preliminary
injunction and AFGE's motion to dismiss on March 16,
2018. Dkt. 33. Ruling from the bench, the Court denied
Brookens's motion for a preliminary injunction, finding
that Brookens had not carried his burden of establishing a
likelihood of success on the merits; that “standing
[presents] a substantial hurdle in this case;” and that
Brookens had failed to show that a preliminary injunction was
necessary to avoid an irreparable injury. Id. at
63-64 (Oral Arg. Tr. 63:24- 64:11). The Court explained, in
particular, that it was likely that a decision setting aside
the trusteeship would actually delay, rather than advance,
the date on which the Local 12 elections would take place.
Id. at 64 (Oral Arg. Tr. 64:13-16). In short,
because the elections planned under the trusteeship were
imminent, while removal of the trustee and reinstatement of
the prior officers would require the rescheduling of the
elections, granting the requested relief would likely have
delayed the elections. For a plaintiff whose only identified
injury was the delay in conducting elections, setting aside
the trusteeship would have had the unfortunate effect of
“snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”
Id. at 65 (Oral Arg. Tr. 65:1-3).
that it needed additional information to address the question
of standing, the Court took AFGE's motion to dismiss
under advisement at the conclusion of the hearing.
Id. at 66 (Oral Arg. Tr. 66:2-5). After the parties
submitted supplemental briefs, the Court issued a further
order directing AFGE to “update the Court on the
timeline for the . . . Local 12 . . . election[s]”
and to address Brookens's showing that he was qualified
to participate in the upcoming elections. Minute Order (May
18, 2018). AFGE complied with that order on May 23, 2018.
Dkt. 40. In doing so, it conceded that Local 12 had
determined that Brookens was qualified to participate in the
elections, and it provided the Court with a copy of a notice
to the Local 12 membership stating that the elections will
take place on June 7, 2018. Id.; see also
Dkt. 40-1 (2018 Election Notice).
party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of
establishing” each of the elements of Article III
standing, although “the manner and degree of evidence
required” varies with “the successive stages of
the litigation.” Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife,
504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). “At the pleading stage,
general factual allegations of injury resulting from the
defendant's conduct” will often suffice.
Id.; see also Owner-Operator Indep. Drivers
Ass'n v. Dep't of Transp., 879 F.3d 339, 346-47
(D.C. Cir. 2018). But, “[w]here a motion to dismiss a
complaint present[s] a dispute over the factual basis of the
court's subject matter jurisdiction[, ] . . . the court
may not deny the motion to dismiss merely by assuming the
truth of the facts alleged by the plaintiff and disputed by
the defendant.” Feldman v. FDIC, 879 F.3d 347,
351 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Rather, the Court “must go beyond the
pleadings and resolve any disputed issues of fact . . .
necessary to a ruling on the motion to dismiss;” in
doing so, however, the Court must also ensure that Plaintiffs
have been accorded “ample opportunity to secure and
[to] present evidence relevant to the existence of
jurisdiction.” Id. (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted). Prior to discovery, the Court must
accord Plaintiffs “the benefit of all reasonable
inferences, ” and, in the absence of “evidentiary
offering[s], ” the Court must avoid “assessing
the credibility of [their] allegations.” Id.
reaching the merits of a dispute, federal courts must satisfy
themselves that they have Article III jurisdiction. See
Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S.
83, 94-95 (1998). To satisfy Article III, the plaintiff must
have standing-that is, “‘a personal stake in the
outcome of the controversy [sufficient] to warrant . . .
federal-court jurisdiction.'” Chamber ofCommerce v. EPA, 642 F.3d 192, 199 (D.C. Cir. 2011)
(quoting Summers v. Earth Island Inst., 555 U.S.