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Johnson v. National Association for Advancement of Colored People

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 29, 2018

WES W.C. JOHNSON
v.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, ET AL.

         SECTION: “J” (4)

          ORDER & REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Rec. Doc.68) filed by Plaintiff Wes “W.C.” Johnson and an opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 72) filed by Defendants.[1] Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be DENIED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit derives from an alleged breach of contract and deprivation of constitutional rights. (Rec. Doc. 1.) The named Defendants are the National office of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”); Cornell William Brooks, the former President and CEO of the NAACP; Roslyn M. Brock, the Chairman of the NAACP's Board of Directors; and Carmen Watkins, the NAACP's Region VI Director (collectively, “Defendants”). In the complaint filed on January 13, 2017, Plaintiff alleges that he filed grievances with the National office of the NAACP pursuant to the NAACP's constitution and bylaws seeking relief for inappropriate conduct by elected officers of the New Orleans Branch of the NAACP (the “New Orleans Branch”). Rather than investigate his claims, Plaintiff alleges that the National office threatened to either dissolve its New Orleans Branch or affect Plaintiff's membership status to chill litigation.

         Furthermore, Plaintiff complains that the election of the chapter officers was not properly conducted in 2016. As a result, Plaintiff has now sued Defendants for (1) not investigating his complaints of January 19, 2016, and April 18, 2016; (2) permitting ineligible candidates to run for local NAACP leadership positions; and (3) failing to invalidate the illegal election results. Plaintiff also claims he has been deprived of his constitutional rights under the First, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff asks this Court to force the National office to address his complaints as to the voting irregularities and to require that all elections be rescinded until the proper execution of the NAACP's constitutional protections can be administered. Finally, Plaintiff seeks $100, 000 in punitive damages to be given to the New Orleans Branch, a judgment forcing Defendants to reorganize the NAACP's constitution to comply with the United States Constitution, and for all costs incurred.

         On October 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint (Rec. Doc. 54) seeking to add four defendants to the case for causing “additional injury to the prosecution of this cause” and denying Plaintiff his rights. Specifically, Plaintiff sought to add (1) Dr. Ernest Johnson, the President of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP; (2) Gloria Johnson, the President of the New Orleans Branch; (3) Laurene McMillan, the Secretary of the New Orleans Branch; and (4) Danatus King, Sr., former president of the New Orleans Branch of the NAACP and current counsel for the named Defendants. On April 18, 2018, the Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, finding primarily that Plaintiff's claims were futile. Plaintiff objected to the ruling, which this Court overruled on May 11, 2018. (Rec. Doc. 85.)

         After Plaintiff filed the Motion to Amend but before the Magistrate issued her order denying it, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Rec. Doc. 68) and a Motion to Expedite said motion (Rec. Doc. 69). On January 25, 2018, the Court denied the motion to expedite and ordered that the motion would be considered on the briefs and without a hearing unless the Court otherwise notified the parties. (Rec. Doc. 70.) Defendants filed an opposition to the motion on February 6, 2018. (Rec. Doc. 72.) On February 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Supplemental Memorandum in support of his motion. (Rec. Doc. 79.) The motion is now before the Court on the briefs and without oral argument.

         PARTIES' ARGUMENTS

         Plaintiff asks that an injunction be entered against (1) the named Defendants, (2) Danatus King (3) Dr. Ernest Johnson, and (4) the “Sheriff's Deputies and other law enforcement agencies.” Plaintiff argues that a preliminary injunction is necessary in order to preserve his rights to attend and participate in the meetings of the New Orleans Branch, to prevent Danatus King and Dr. Johnson from making false and derogatory statements about Plaintiff, and to prevent any actions that would allow the New Orleans Branch to be removed from under the administration of the National office without the National NAACP Mandates being explained and implemented first.

         Defendants oppose the injunction, arguing that the events complained of in the motion are unrelated to the events that serve as the basis of Plaintiff's complaint. Second, Defendants argue that an injunction is inappropriate against Danatus King or Dr. Johnson because they are not parties in this action. Defendants contend that Plaintiff is merely attempting to add new causes of action and new parties in contravention of the Court's November 3, 2017 Scheduling Order. See Rec. Doc. 59 (“Amendments to pleadings, third-party actions, cross-claims and counter-claims shall NOT be filed”)(emphasis in original). Next, Defendants argue that court interference with the internal affairs of a private association is only appropriate in cases where the complained of action is arbitrary or capricious. Defendants argue the actions complained of here were not arbitrary or capricious; rather, they were based on information from the New Orleans Branch's secretary and the National office that Plaintiff was not a member in good standing.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under the law of this Circuit, a plaintiff must make a clear showing that his case satisfies the following four criteria before he can receive a preliminary injunction: (1) a substantial likelihood exists that he will succeed on the merits of his claim; (2) a substantial threat of irreparable harm exists if the injunction is not granted; (3) the threatened injury outweighs any harm to the defendants if the injunction is granted; and (4) the injunction will not undermine the public interest. See Valley v. Rapides Parish School Board, 118 F.3d 1047, 1051 (5th Cir. 1997). He must satisfy all four factors; a failure to satisfy even one of the four factors requires a denial of the preliminary injunction. See Mississippi Power & Light v. United Gas Pipe Line Co., 760 F.2d 618, 621 (5th Cir. 1985). The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has frequently cautioned that a preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary remedy” which should be granted only if the movant has clearly carried the burden of persuasion on all four of the above prerequisites. See e.g., Cherokee Pump & Equipment Inc. v. Aurora Pump, 38 F.3d 246, 249 (5th Cir. 1994). As a result, “[t]he decision to grant a preliminary injunction is to be treated as the exception rather than the rule.” Id.; accord House the Homeless, Inc. v. Widnall, 94 F.3d 176, 180 (5th Cir. 1996).

         Courts are required to liberally construe a pro se litigant's pleadings. Jones v. Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice, 880 F.3d 756, 759 (5th Cir. 2018). The Supreme Court has held that pro se complaints should be held “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyer.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). This leniency, however, is not unlimited. Even those proceeding pro se, “cannot flout procedural rules-they must abide by the same rules that apply to other ...


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