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Patricia Kane, Wendy Braithwaite, and Maureen Eisele v. New York State Nurses Association

October 13, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Sullivan, District Judge:


Plaintiffs, members of Defendant New York State Nurses Association ("NYSNA") and candidates for certain positions in a recent union election, bring this application for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order that would, in essence, require NYSNA to declare the winners of its recent election and to seat the winning candidates on the board. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' request is granted.

I. Background*fn1

NYSNA's bylaws provide that the election of officers, directors at large, and certain other positions shall be conducted by secret mail ballot, which are provided to voters no later than 60 days prior to the union's annual meeting. (Declaration of Patricia Kane, dated September 25, 2011, Doc. No. 14 ("Kane Decl."), Ex. A at Art. XIV § 2.) The bylaws further provide that "[t]he results of the secret mail ballot shall be announced at the annual meeting," and that "[t]he nominees who receive the highest number of votes shall be declared elected." (Id. §§ 4-5.) Additionally, the bylaws state that "[t]he terms of all officers, directors and the Nominating Committee shall commence at the adjournment of the annual membership meeting at which they were elected and shall continue for the term specified or until their successors are elected." (Id. § 7.) Once elected, the officers and directors at large serve two-year terms. (Id. at Art. V § 3.)

In August 2011, NYSNA conducted an election for the positions of president-elect, treasurer, and four directors at large. Plaintiff Kane ran for treasurer as part of an anti-incumbent slate of candidates known as "New York Nurses for Staffing, Security and Strength." (Kane Decl. ¶ 13.) On August 24, 2011, the ballots were counted, and Kane and her entire slate received the most votes for each contested seat in the election and secured a majority of the seats on the board of directors. (Id. ¶ 3.)

From September 23 through September 25, 2011, NYSNA held its annual meeting in Niagara Falls, New York. (Id. ¶ 5.) While the results of the election were made public prior to the meeting, they were not formally announced at the annual meeting. Indeed, prior to the meeting, several members lodged protests regarding purported violations of NYSNA's election procedures, and an internal election committee was created to investigate these claims. (Kane Decl., Ex. F at 1-2.) On September 25, 2011, at the conclusion of the annual meeting, the incumbent board of directors convened and refused to seat Kane and her fellow slate members pending the conclusion of the election committee's investigation. (Kane Decl., Ex. F at 1-2.) The committee stated that it would not certify the results of the election until it completed its investigation of the protests. (Id.) NYSNA subsequently issued a press release in which it indicated that "the current board will remain in place" beyond the expiration of their terms through the completion of the election protest process, and through and including the disposition of any appeals. (Kane Decl., Ex. I.) The bylaws are silent with respect to procedures for seating board members pending the investigation of election protests.

On September 26, 2011, Plaintiffs filed with this Court an "Application for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order." Defendants submitted their papers in opposition to Plaintiffs' request on September 27, 2011. The Court heard oral argument on September 28, 2011.

II. Legal Standard

"A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest." Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008); accord Salinger v. Colting, 607 F.3d 68, 79-- 80 (2d Cir. 2010). The party seeking the injunction carries the burden of persuasion to demonstrate, "by a clear showing," that the necessary elements are satisfied. See Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997).

The standard for a temporary restraining order is the same as for a preliminary injunction. See AFA Dispensing Grp. B.V. v. Anheuser--Busch, Inc., 740 F. Supp. 2d 465, 471 (S.D.N.Y. 2010).

III. Discussion A. Jurisdiction

As an initial matter, the parties vigorously dispute whether this Court has jurisdiction to grant the relief that Plaintiffs are seeking.

Title I of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 401, et seq., provides that "[a]ny person whose rights secured by the provisions of this subchapter have been infringed by any violation of this subchapter may bring a civil action in a district court of the United States for such relief (including injunctions) as may be appropriate."

29 U.S.C. ยง 412. Plaintiffs argue that this provision of the LMRDA confers jurisdiction on this Court to hear claims relating to ...

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