HUDSON, JR. v. AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING Defendant's 14 Motion to Stay. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 11/15/17. (lcjeb1) Modified event title on 11/16/2017 (znmw).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
EUGENE HUDSON, JR.,
Civil Action No. 17-1867 (JEB)
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On November 9, 2017, this Court issued a decision enjoining Defendant American
Federation of Government Employees to reinstate Plaintiff Eugene Hudson to his position as
National Secretary-Treasurer. See ECF Nos. 12, 13. AFGE now moves for an emergency stay
of that Order until January 2, 2018, by which time it asserts it will have completed new
disciplinary proceedings to remove him. See ECF No. 14. While the Court appreciates that
Defendant has responded promptly to the Order, it nonetheless finds that the relevant factors
weigh against such a stay. The Motion, accordingly, will be denied.
As explained in detail in the prior Memorandum Opinion, this suit concerns AFGE’s
removal of Hudson from his elected position as National Secretary-Treasurer. The charges that
ultimately culminated in this discipline stem from an email blast that he sent using an AFGE
computer, email address, and staff member to “several hundred AFGE officers and members” at
both personal and governmental addresses. See Compl., ¶¶ 9, 11. The blast questioned whether
AFGE, as an organization, was ready for an attack on organized labor from President-Elect
Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress. See Compl., Exh. 1. The email — which had not
been reviewed by anyone else at AFGE — quickly drew the ire of several Union officials.
After a National Vice-President filed charges against Hudson for alleged violations of the
AFGE Constitution, a Committee of Investigation deliberated and decided probable cause
existed to refer the charges to the National Executive Committee. See Compl., Exh. 3. Over
Hudson’s protests, NVP Gerald Swanke — an officer who had previously filed an unrelated
charge against Hudson — chaired the three-person Committee. See Compl., ¶ 26. One month
later, the NEC met, deliberated, and found Hudson guilty of three violations of the AFGE
Constitution; it also voted to remove him from office as a penalty. See Compl., ¶ 49. Hudson
timely appealed the ruling to the National Convention pursuant to the AFGE Constitution, but
the Convention does not take place — and thus no ruling will issue — until August 2018.
In September 2017, Plaintiff filed this suit and a Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The
Court heard argument on October 26 and released its Opinion granting Plaintiff’s Motion on
November 9. Although Hudson raised multiple challenges to his removal, the Opinion only
focused on one: his claim that AFGE violated the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure
Act’s requirement for a full and fair hearing before a union may discipline a member. The Court
found that Hudson had made the necessary showing that it was likely that Swanke’s position as
chair of the Committee created “a significant risk of actual bias.” Mem. Op. at 13 (quoting
Wildberger v. Am. Fed’n of Gov’t Emps., 86 F.3d 1188, 1196 (D.C. Cir. 1996)). The Court also
found that the other three preliminary-injunction factors — irreparable harm, balance of the
equities, and the public interest — weighed in favor of granting the injunction. Id. at 14-16. The
Court, accordingly, ordered that AFGE “reinstate Hudson to his position as National SecretaryTreasurer effective immediately.” Id. at 17.
Defendant now asks the Court to stay such reinstatement pending a new disciplinary
hearing. The Union explains that the selection of a new and impartial Committee is already
underway and that the full disciplinary process will be completed by January 2, 2018. See Mot.
at 2. Although AFGE styles its request as a Motion for a Stay of the Injunction, it is more
accurately a motion to modify the injunction, and the Court construes it as such. See Fox
Television Stations, Inc. v. FilmOn X, LLC, 968 F. Supp. 2d 134, 139-40 (D.D.C. 2013)
(treating motion for reconsideration of preliminary injunction as motion to modify). This
triggers a different standard from a request for a stay pending appeal, which is not at issue here.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(c); Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987) (stating standard for
stay of injunction pending appeal).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) permits a court to “relieve a party . . . from a[n] . . .
order” when “applying it prospectively is no longer equitable” or upon a showing of “any . . .
reason that justifies relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5), (6). A court may, accordingly, modify an
injunction pursuant to that rule in its “equitable discretion.” Trump v. Int’l Refugee Assistance
Project, 137 S. Ct. 2080, 2087 (2017) (granting stay of and modifying preliminary injunction)
(citing Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 433 (2009) (assessing whether to stay an alien’s removal
pending judicial review)). In determining whether such relief is warranted, “[i]t is ultimately
necessary . . . to balance the equities — to explore the relative harms to applicant and
respondent, as well as the interests of the public at large.” Id. (alteration in original) (citation
omitted). “The party seeking modification ‘bears the burden of establishing that a significant
change in circumstances warrants [its] revisions.’” Gov’t of Province of Manitoba v. Zinke, 849
F.3d 1111, 1117 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk Cty. Jail, 502 U.S. 367,
383 (1992)) (alteration in original). It is appropriate to modify an injunction “only when there
has been a change” in the facts or law “between entry of the injunction and the filing of the
motion that would render the continuance of the injunction in its original form inequitable.”
FilmOn X, 968 F. Supp. 2d at 140 (citation omitted). Ultimately, the court must, in its
discretion, decide “whether the requested modification effectuates or thwarts the purpose behind
the injunction.” Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 732 F.2d 253, 257 (2d Cir. 1984).
In deciding whether to exercise its discretion and stay the injunction pending a new
disciplinary hearing, the Court begins from the basic premise that the “purpose of a preliminary
injunction is merely to preserve the relative positions of the parties until a trial on the merits can
be held.” Univ. of Tex. v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 395 (1981). The status quo — “the last
uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy,” District 50, United Mine Workers
of Am. v. Int’l Union, United Mine Workers, 412 F.2d 165, 168 (D.C. Cir. 1969) (citation
omitted) — is with Hudson in the NST position. That is what the Court’s injunction
accomplished pending a final decision on the merits. See Yablonski v. United Mine Workers of
Am., 459 F.2d 1201, 1202 (D.C. Cir. 1972) (reinstating plaintiff as Acting Director). AFGE
urges this Court to use its discretion to stay the reinstatement because the Union will incur
wasted “effort and confusion . . . upon restoring Plaintiff to duty . . . if he is then removed
again.” Mot. at 3. Such an argument, however, almost presupposes the outcome. For example,
Defendant cites Chance v. Champion Spark Plug, Co., 732 F. Supp. 605 (D. Md. 1990), where a
district court found that reinstatement was inappropriate because the plaintiff “intended to retire”
in less than one month. Id. at 610. Here, by contrast, there is no certainty that Hudson will be
reinstated only for a short time. Until he receives a new hearing, no one knows whether he will
continue to be NST or not come January.
Next, the Court considers the “changed circumstances.” Zinke, 849 F.3d at 1117. The
only thing that has changed between the Court’s entry of its Order on November 9 and AFGE’s
Motion is its decision to constitute a new Committee of Investigation. See Mot., Exh. 1
(Declaration of Cheryl Eliano), ¶ 4. That simply does not rise to the level necessary to warrant a
departure from the Order. See Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203, 216 (1997) (costs of complying
with injunction were known at the time district court entered order and therefore did not
constitute “significant change in factual conditions”).
Finally, the Court weighs the “relative harms.” IRAP, 137 S. Ct. at 2087. AFGE’s
argument boils down to administrative inconvenience. If it reinstates Hudson and then a new
tribunal again finds him guilty, the Union will have to “process a return to work and . . .
reprocess another removal within two months,” a feat it claims is “impractical.” Mot. at 3.
Although this may add to the Union’s workload, such a harm seems fairly slight. Defendant also
obliquely cites “confusion and poor staff morale” that occurs when an employee is restored while
under threat of removal. Id. at 2-3. Yet this cuts both ways, as discipline based on allegedly
biased processes can also lead to “poor staff morale.” On the other side of the ledger, the
irreparable harm on which the Court relied in the prior Opinion still will persist in the next two
months. Hudson was elected NST, and, until a new hearing is conducted, each day that he is out
of office he is denied the benefit of his elected representative. See Mem. Op. at 15. Plaintiff
alleges, for example, that there are executive meetings that, as an officer, he is entitled to be a
part of. See Opp. at 2. Any inconvenience to AFGE is thus outweighed by this hardship to
In short, the Court finds no equitable reason to delay Hudson’s reinstatement until
January 2018. While AFGE may be confronted with some administrative tasks because of the
reinstatement — and perhaps more should the NEC again vote to remove Hudson — that is not
enough to overcome the purpose undergirding injunctive relief, which is to restore the status quo
pending an ultimate decision on the merits.
The Court, therefore, ORDERS that Defendant’s Emergency Motion for Stay is
DENIED. At the status conference on November 20, 2017, the Court will address whether to
stay the remaining proceedings in the case during the new disciplinary process.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ James E. Boasberg
JAMES E. BOASBERG
United States District Judge
Date: November 15, 2017
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