Plaintiff was elected to the presidency of Local 375 in January
1998 on an anti-corruption platform, after defeating an eighteen
year incumbent. (Id. ¶ 5.) Since being elected president of
Local 375, Mr. Commer alleges that he has spent much time and
effort attempting to reform the union and expose alleged
corruption. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that, partly as a result of
his efforts, AFSCME commenced an audit of the locals in DC 37.
(Id. ¶ 6.)
The Executive Board of Local 375 suspended Mr. Commer from his
position as president on or about November 8, 1998. (Id. ¶ 7.)
The stated reasons for the suspension was that Mr. Commer had
engaged in "conduct imminently dangerous to the welfare" of the
union. (Id.) Defendants, in their opposition papers to
plaintiff's original preliminary injunction motion, cited eleven
charges against Mr. Commer, including acceptance of illegal
gifts, improper use of funds, aid to a competing organization,
interference with a subordinate body, instituting legal action
without exhausting internal remedies, improper distribution of
literature, and failure to follow requests of the Executive
On or about November 26, 1998, AFSCME President Gerald
McEntree, acting pursuant to the AFSCME constitution, ordered
plaintiff reinstated as president of Local 375. The Court
subsequently dismissed the preliminary injunction motion as moot.
Plaintiff asserts that he was suspended by the Executive Board
not for the pretextual reasons asserted by the Board but rather
because of his efforts to reform the union, including speaking to
the media in a manner critical of DC 37 and the past leadership
of Local 375. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that his suspension
violated his rights to freedom of speech and association, as
guaranteed by federal labor law and the AFSCME constitution.
In their Answer to the Second Amended Complaint ("Answer and
Counterclaims"), defendants assert four counterclaims against
plaintiff. In substance, defendants allege that plaintiff is
abusing his position as president, and is acting unlawfully and
dictatorially in a manner that infringes on their rights to
freedom of speech and association. Plaintiff asserts that these
counterclaims are frivolous, and moves for their dismissal and
for Rule 11 sanctions.
I. MOTION TO DISMISS
Plaintiff moves to dismiss defendants' counterclaims pursuant
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). On such a motion, the court is required
to accept the material facts alleged in defendants' counterclaim
as true and to construe all reasonable inferences in favor of
defendants. See Gant v. Wallingford Bd. of Educ., 69 F.3d 669,
673 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing Hernandez v. Coughlin, 18 F.3d 133,
136 (2d Cir. 1994)); Meridien Int'l Bank Ltd. v. Government of
the Republic of Liberia, 23 F. Supp.2d 439, 445 (S.D.N.Y. 1998)
(stating that, in deciding a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
counterclaims, the "Court must accept all well-pleaded facts as
true and construe the answer and counterclaims in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party"). Defendants' counterclaims
should be dismissed only if the Court determines that "it appears
beyond doubt that the [non-movants] can prove no set of facts in
support of [their] claim which would entitle [them] to relief."
Gant, 69 F.3d at 673 (citing Allen v. West-Point-Pepperell,
Inc., 945 F.2d 40, 44 (2d Cir. 1991) (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957))).
However, the Court is not required to uphold the validity of a
claim supported only by conclusory allegations: "conclusory
allegations need not be credited . . . when they are belied by
more specific allegations of the complaint." Hirsch v. Arthur
Andersen & Co., 72 F.3d 1085, 1092 (2d Cir. 1995).
All four of defendants' counterclaims purport to assert claims
pursuant to Section 101(a)(2) of the Labor Management
Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2) ("
§ 101(a)(2)"). This section protects union members' freedom of
speech and assembly, providing that
[e]very member of any labor organization shall have
the right to meet and assemble freely with other
members; and to express any views, arguments, or
opinions; and to express at meetings of the labor
organization his views, upon candidates in an
election of the labor organization or upon any
business properly before the meeting, subject to the
organization's established and reasonable rules
pertaining to the conduct of meetings. . . .
29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2). The purpose of this freedom of speech and
assembly provision was explained by the Supreme Court in United
Steelworkers v. Sadlowski, 457 U.S. 102, 102 S.Ct. 2339, 72
L.Ed.2d 707 (1982):
Congress adopted the freedom of speech and assembly
provisions . . . in order to promote union democracy.
It recognized that democracy would be assured only if
union members are free to discuss union policies and
criticize the leadership without fear of reprisal.
Id. at 112, 102 S.Ct. 2339 (internal citations omitted). See
also Salzhandler v. Caputo,