JERICHO BAPTIST CHURCH MINISTRIES, INC. v. JERICHO BAPTIST CHURCH MINISTRIES, INC. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 14 Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction. See attached Memorandum Opinion and Order for further details. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 08/25/2016. (lcapm1)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc.
(District of Columbia),
Civil No. 16-cv-00647 (APM)
Jericho Baptist Ministries, Inc. (Maryland),
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter comes before the court on a motion for temporary and preliminary injunctive
relief filed by Plaintiff Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc. (District of Columbia) (“Jericho
DC”). See generally Pl.’s Mem. of P. & A. Supp. Pl.’s Mot. for TRO and Prelim. Inj., ECF No.
14 [hereinafter Pl.’s Mem.]. At this juncture, the court need not provide a detailed factual recitation
of the case. It suffices to say that the crux of the parties’ dispute revolves around who should have
control over the corporate identity and assets of Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc. (the
“Church”). According to Plaintiff, in 2009, the individual Defendants wrongfully took control of
the Church’s Board of Trustees (“the Board”). The Church had been incorporated and operating
under the laws of the District of Columbia as Jericho DC, but the newly constituted Board changed
all this. It incorporated the Church under the same name in Maryland—Defendant Jericho Baptist
Church Ministries, Inc. (Maryland) (“Jericho Maryland”)—and then merged Jericho DC into the
new Maryland entity. That merger enabled Jericho Maryland to take over the assets of Plaintiff,
Jericho DC. See generally Am. Compl., ECF No. 8, ¶¶ 6-36.
Plaintiff asks the court to order Defendants to (1) halt use of its tax identification number;
(2) cease use of Church funds for any purpose inconsistent with its non-profit status; and
(3) provide Plaintiff with an annual accounting of all funds expended by Defendants since
December 15, 2010. Pl.’s Mem. at 24. To support these requests, Plaintiff advances ten federal
and common law claims against Defendant, including three claims under the Racketeer Influenced
and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 70-117. The court
need not, however, reach the merits of these claims at this stage in the proceedings, because it
concludes that Plaintiff’s motion must be denied because it has failed to establish irreparable harm.
Injunctive relief, of the kind requested here, is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy” that
is “never awarded as [a matter] of right.” Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689–90 (2008) (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted). A court may only grant the “extraordinary remedy . . . upon
a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc.,
555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008) (citing Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (per curiam)).
Specifically, a plaintiff must show: (1) that it “is likely to succeed on the merits”; (2) that it “is
likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief”; (3) “that the balance of
equities tips in [its] favor”; and (4) “that an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter, 555 U.S.
at 20 (citations omitted).
Courts in this Circuit traditionally have evaluated these four factors on a “sliding scale”—
if a “movant makes an unusually strong showing on one of the factors, then it does not necessarily
have to make as strong a showing on another factor.” Davis v. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp,
571 F.3d 1288, 1291–92 (D.C. Cir. 2009). The Supreme Court’s decision in Winter, however,
called that approach into doubt and sparked disagreement over whether the “sliding scale”
framework continues to apply, or whether a movant must make a positive showing on all four
factors without discounting the importance of a factor simply because one or more other factors
have been convincingly established. Compare Davis v. Billington, 76 F. Supp. 3d 59, 63 n.5
(D.D.C. 2014) (“[B]ecause it remains the law of this Circuit, the Court must employ the slidingscale analysis here.”), with ABA, Inc. v. District of Columbia, 40 F. Supp. 3d 153, 165 (D.D.C.
2014) (“The D.C. Circuit has interpreted Winter to require a positive showing on all four
preliminary injunction factors.” (citing Davis v. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp., 571 F.3d 1288, 1296
(D.C. Cir. 2009) (Kavanaugh, J., concurring))).
Regardless of whether the sliding scale framework applies, it remains clear that a movant
must demonstrate irreparable harm, which has “always” been “[t]he basis of injunctive relief in
the federal courts.” Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 88 (1974) (alteration in original) (quoting
Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 506–07 (1959)). “A movant’s failure to show
any irreparable harm is therefore grounds for refusing to issue a preliminary injunction, even if the
other three factors entering the calculus merit such relief.” Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches
v. England, 454 F.3d 290, 297 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Indeed, if a court concludes that a movant has
not demonstrated irreparable harm, it need not even consider the remaining factors. See CityFed
Fin. Corp. v. Office of Thrift Supervision, 58 F.3d 738, 747 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (“Because [the
plaintiff] has made no showing of irreparable injury here . . . [w]e . . . need not reach the district
court’s consideration of the remaining factors relevant to the issuance of a preliminary
Finally, the Court of Appeals has expressly cautioned that “[t]he power to issue a
preliminary injunction, especially a mandatory one, should be ‘sparingly exercised.’” Dorfmann
v. Boozer, 414 F.2d 1168, 1173 (D.C. Cir. 1969) (citation omitted). Heeding this caution, where,
as here, the plaintiff’s requested injunction is “mandatory—that is, where its terms would alter,
rather than preserve, the status quo by commanding some positive act”—judges in this Circuit
have required the moving party to “meet a higher standard than in the ordinary case by showing
clearly that he or she is entitled to relief or that extreme or very serious damage will result from
the denial of the injunction.” See, e.g., Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. Dep’t of Justice, 15 F. Supp. 3d
32, 39 (D.D.C. 2014) (collecting cases); Veitch v. Danzig, 135 F. Supp. 2d 32, 35 & n. 2 (D.D.C.
2001) (holding that where “a ruling would alter, not preserve, the status quo,” the plaintiff “must
meet a higher standard than were the injunction he sought merely prohibitory,” in light of the
Supreme Court’s holding that “‘[t]he purpose of a preliminary injunction is merely to preserve the
relative position of the parties until a trial on the merits can be held’” (alteration in original)
(quoting Univ. of Tex. v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 395 (1981))); Columbia Hosp. for Women
Found., Inc. v. Bank of Tokyo–Mitsubishi Ltd., 15 F. Supp. 2d 1, 4 (D.D.C. 1997), aff’d, 159 F.3d
636 (D.C. Cir. 1998).
Here, Plaintiff claims that it will suffer three types of irreparable harm unless injunctive
relief is awarded: (1) the inability of its directors and officers to carry out their fiduciary duties to
Jericho DC; (2) reputational loss “in view of Plaintiff’s lack of control over church finances”; and
(3) “immediate and ongoing” tax liability from Defendant’s “unregulated, uncontrolled
expenditure of Plaintiff’s funds and ongoing use” of Plaintiff’s federal tax identification number.
Pl.’s Mem. at 17. The court finds that none of these alleged injuries rises to the level of irreparable
First, Plaintiff has cited no legal authority for the proposition that an entity suffers
irreparable harm when its directors and officers—who themselves are not parties to this action—
are unable to carry out their fiduciary obligations. Even if an entity could suffer legally-recognized
harm in such a situation, however, Plaintiff has failed to establish those circumstances here.
Plaintiff seems to suggest that its directors and officers are at risk of breaching their fiduciary
duties unless they are able to regain control over Church assets. Pl.’s Mem. at 18. But it is difficult
to understand how Plaintiff’s directors and officers are at such risk when they have no legal ability
to control the Church assets currently held by Jericho Maryland. Plaintiff’s directors and officers
cannot breach a duty that they are unable to exercise in the first place. Nor have they had control
over Church assets for at least the last seven years. And Plaintiff has not cited to any instance in
which its directors or officers have been accused, let alone been found, to have breached their
fiduciary duties. Accordingly, the asserted risk of a future breach of fiduciary duty is not in this
case sufficient to establish irreparable harm. See Wis. Gas Co. v. FERC, 758 F.2d 669, 674 (D.C.
Cir. 1985) (holding that to establish irreparable harm the movant must “substantiate the claim that
irreparable injury is ‘likely’ to occur. . . . Bare allegations of what is likely to occur are of no
As to Plaintiff’s claimed irreparable injury to its reputation, it is well-settled that
“reputational injury can be used to establish irreparable harm in certain circumstances.” Trudeau
v. FTC, 384 F. Supp. 2d 281, 297 (D.D.C. 2005) (citations omitted); 11A Charles Alan Wright,
Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Fed. Prac. & Proc. § 2948.1 (3d ed.) (“Injury to reputation or
goodwill is not easily measurable in monetary terms, and so often is viewed as irreparable.”).
“However, as with all other forms of irreparable harm, the showing of reputational harm must be
concrete and corroborated, not merely speculative.” Trudeau, 384 F. Supp. 2d at 297 (citations
omitted). Here, Plaintiff has offered mere conclusory assertions about the reputational injury it
will suffer in the absence of injunctive relief. Indeed, the only evidence that Plaintiff has offered
to support its claimed injury is a deficiency notice from the IRS. See Pl.’s Mem. at 18 (citing Pl.’s
Mem., Ex. 3, ECF No. 14-1 [hereinafter Ex. 3]). That notice, however, tells the court nothing
about Plaintiff’s reputational injury. See generally Ex. 3. Plaintiff also contends that “the inability
to regulate and control expenditures of its own funds imminently affects its non-profit status.” Id.
Plaintiff, however, has offered no proof of any imminent harm to its non-profit status. See Wis.
Gas, 758 F.2d at 674 (Irreparable “injury must be both certain and great; it must be actual and not
theoretical.”). Further, Plaintiff nowhere explains how the risk to its non-profit status is any greater
today than it has been during the last seven years, even though it did not control Church assets at
that time, either.
Finally, as to Plaintiff’s assertion that its tax-exempt status will be “significantly
imperil[ed]” absent injunctive relief, see Pl.’s Mem. at 19, Plaintiff again has not offered any proof
that such an injury is “of such imminence that there is a ‘clear and present’ need for equitable relief
to prevent irreparable harm,” Wis. Gas, 758 F.2d at 674 (citation omitted); id. (“Injunctive relief
‘will not be granted against something merely feared as liable to occur at some indefinite time.’”
(quoting Connecticut v. Massachusetts, 282 U.S. 660, 674 (1931))). Plaintiff has not, for instance,
shown that there is an ongoing IRS investigation into its non-profit status or that the IRS has
threatened—now or at any time in the last seven years—to take any action against it. See Pl.’s
Mem. at 21 (making the conclusory assertion that “Plaintiff stands a realistic chance of losing its
One additional factor weighs heavily against Plaintiff’s claim of irreparable harm—
Plaintiff’s delay in bringing this suit. “Courts have found that ‘[a]n unexcused delay in seeking
extraordinary injunctive relief may be grounds for denial because such delay implies a lack of
urgency and irreparable harm.’” Open Top Sightseeing USA v. Mr. Sightseeing, LLC, 48 F. Supp.
3d 87, 90 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Newdow v. Bush, 355 F. Supp. 2d 265, 292 (D.D.C. 2005)).
Plaintiff contends that it did not regain its corporate identity, and thus its Board could not have
authorized suit, until August 2015, when a Superior Court judge overseeing a related case entered
a judgment invalidating the Church merger. See Pl.’s Opp’n to Defs.’ Renewed Mot. to Dismiss,
ECF No. 17, at 34. Even if the court assumes that contention to be true, Plaintiff did not bring this
action until March 23, 2016, some seven months later. See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1, ¶ 1.
Such a long delay in bringing suit bolsters the court’s conclusion that Plaintiff has failed to
demonstrate irreparable harm. See Open Top Sightseeing USA, 48 F. Supp. 3d at 90-91 (collecting
For the foregoing reasons, the court denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary Restraining
Order and Preliminary Injunction. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint,
ECF No. 15, remains under consideration by the court.
Date: August 25, 2016
Amit P. Mehta
United States District Judge
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