LCW Partner Geoff Sheldon, Senior Counsel Dave Urban, And Associate Daniel Seitz Won The Early Dismissal Of A Constitutional Political Speech Lawsuit

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Mar 06, 2023

An LCW team led by Partner Geoff Sheldon, Senior Counsel Dave Urban, and Associate Daniel Seitz won the dismissal of a lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles. When a lawsuit is filed, the entity being sued has options.  One option is for the entity to answer the complaint to tell its side of the story and to litigate the case.  Another option is to file a motion to dismiss, which asserts that even if all the allegations in the lawsuit are true, there is still no cause of action. The latter option is very challenging.  Even if a court grants the motion, the court usually gives the person suing an opportunity to try again to file a successful lawsuit.

The LCW team took the more challenging option and won. Here, County employee Michael Craine joined Local 119 of the American Federation Of State, County, And Municipal Employees Council in 1999.  Craine later decided to withdraw from the union.  He sent a letter to Local 119 on January 19, 2022. Craine’s letter withdrew his authorization for the union to deduct his dues from his paycheck.

After Local 119 refused to process his request until a later time, Craine filed a lawsuit.  Craine alleged that taking the dues deductions without his permission violated his constitutional right to decide whether to fund political speech.  Upon receiving the lawsuit, Local 119 canceled Craine’s dues deduction and mailed Craine a check reimbursing him for dues deducted after January 19, 2019, along with interest on that amount.

Geoff, Dave, and Daniel filed a motion to dismiss alleging that Craine’s lawsuit was moot. To proceed in federal court, Craine needed to prove:  he was injured because of another’s conduct, there was a causal connection between his injury and the conduct, and that his injury could be redressed by a court.

Here, Local 119 stopped its dues deductions once Craine sued, refunded the dues it deducted, and provided him interest on the dues deductions.  As a result, Craine had no ongoing injury and a moot lawsuit.   Once the LCW legal team learned these facts they immediately moved for dismissal. The judge then granted the dismissal without leave to amend. This helped the County avoid time-consuming and expensive discovery and trial.

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