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Ross v. Hawaii Nurses' Association Office

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

February 12, 2018

DANIEL ROSS, MARINA ROBINSON, and JOAN CRAFT, Plaintiffs,
v.
HAWAII NURSES' ASSOCIATION OFFICE AND PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION LOCAL 50, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND REMANDING ACTION TO STATE COURT FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

          Michael Seabright, Chief United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On January 16, 2018, Defendant Hawaii Nurses' Association Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 50 (“Defendant” or “HNA”) removed this action to this court from the First Circuit Court of the State of Hawaii (the “state court”) after the state court issued a 30-day preliminary injunction on January 3, 2018 that enjoined HNA from certain union-related activities. Def.'s Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. HNA removed based upon the complete preemption doctrine, contending that the suit “directly relates to the validity” of “an election already conducted” by a labor union, and is thus completely preempted by Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 481-83. Id. at 3, 10 & 11.

         The court faces three Motions: (1) Plaintiffs Daniel Ross, Marina Robinson, and Joan Craft's (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”), ECF No. 10; (2) Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and to Vacate Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction, ECF No. 20; and (3) Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand, ECF No. 21. Based on the following, the action is REMANDED to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff's Motion for TRO is DENIED as moot, and the court does not reach Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Because the Motions at issue primarily concern federal jurisdiction and procedure, and do not require the court to address the merits of the Complaint, the court sets forth only the essential factual allegations of the underlying dispute to provide necessary context for the Motions.

         HNA is a Hawaii labor union with approximately 4, 500 members whose purpose is “promoting the professional and educational advancement of nurses and other health care professionals and advancing their economic and general welfare by securing terms and conditions of employment consistent with the ideals of fair wages and benefits.” Compl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 1-1. In 2010, HNA “affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (‘OPEIU'), becoming Hawaii Nurses' Association, OPEIU Local 50, AFL-CIO.” Id. ¶ 9.

         Plaintiff Daniel Ross is a nurse at Queen's Medical Center. Id. ¶ 4. He was “recently removed from the Office of Vice President of the HNA Executive Board, ” after he was found “to be a member not in good standing” of the HNA. Id. Specifically, an HNA Trial Board November 16, 2017 written decision “found that Daniel Ross violated his duties by participating in the sending of anonymous emails to HNA members.” Id. ¶ 22. The Trial Board recommended that he “be immediately removed from the office of Vice President” and “be prohibited from running for any officer position for a period of six (6) years.” Id. ¶ 23. It found his “actions constitute conduct unbecoming an official of HNA, ” such that he “should be considered a member not in good standing for a period of six (6) years.” Id.

         Plaintiff Marina Robinson is a nurse at Kaiser Hospital. Id. ¶ 5. She is an HNA member who was “recently removed [as] Treasurer of the HNA Executive Board.” Id. A different November 16, 2017 HNA Trial Board decision found that she violated her duties as Treasurer “by making unreasonable reporting requests, signing checks to pay HNA's financial obligations in an untimely fashion, [and] refusing to sign paychecks for an independent contractor performing services for HNA.” Id. ¶ 24. The Trial Board recommended removing her from office and prohibiting her from running for any officer position for four years. She was, however, allowed to continue as a member in good standing and as a union steward. Id. ¶ 25.

         Plaintiff Joan Craft is a nurse at Queen's Medical Center. Id. ¶ 6. “[S]he was recently removed from her position as Chief Steward” of HNA” and found “to be a member not in good standing.” Id. The HNA Trial Board found that she “violated her duties as Chief Steward by owning [sic?] anonymous emails, participating in the content of anonymous emails, and misrepresenting union member freedom of speech rights.” Id. ¶ 26. It recommended that she immediately be removed her from her position as Chief Steward, prohibited from running for any officer position for four years, and “be considered a member not in good standing” for four years. Id. ¶ 27.

         Without reiterating the specific allegations of the Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that HNA violated various provisions of OPEIU and HNA governing documents and procedures in these Trial Board decisions (and related review processes) that removed them from office, and (with Ross and Craft) found them to be “members not in good standing.” Id. ¶¶ 29, 36, 47-76. For example, among other relief, Ross and Robinson seek a declaration that they were removed from office in violation of governing documents and Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) § 414D-138. Id. ¶ 76. They also apparently sought to have their appeals heard “at the next regularly scheduled membership meeting[.]” Id. ¶¶ 36, B.

         When the Trial Board made its recommendations on November 16, 2017, all three Plaintiffs were candidates for an ongoing election for officers of the 2018 HNA Executive Board. Id. ¶ 37. Ross was a candidate for President, Robinson for Trustee, and Craft for Treasurer. Id. The Complaint alleges that the OPEIU Constitution requires new nominations if any candidate is suspended from union membership during the election process, but the HNA Executive Board refused to hold new nominations. Id. ¶ 40. Ballots were counted on December 12, 2017. Id. ¶ 41.

         The Complaint further alleges that “Plaintiff Joan Craft prevailed in her candidacy for the office of Treasurer, but the [HNA] refuses to recognize her candidacy for office.” Id. ¶ 42. “Plaintiff Daniel Ross lost in his candidacy for the office of President[] because the HNA Executive Board informed the membership, while he was a candidate on the election ballot, that he was no longer eligible for the position.” Id. ¶ 43. Likewise, “Plaintiff Marina Robinson lost her candidacy for the position of Trustee[] because the HNA Executive Board informed the membership, while she was a candidate on the election ballot, that she was no longer eligible for the position.” Id. ¶ 44.

         On its face, Plaintiffs' Complaint raises no federal claims (and there is no diversity of citizenship). Specifically, the Complaint asserts three Counts under Hawaii law: (1) Count One (“Breach of Governing Documents”) alleges that Defendant violated provisions of the HNA Constitution and bylaws and/or HNA's parent union's (OPEIU) Constitution, policies, or procedures, all in “breach of the governing documents and HRS Section 414D-138”; (2) Count Two (“Declaratory Judgment”) seeks a declaration that Ross and Robinson were removed from the offices of Vice President and Treasurer, respectively, in violation of governing documents and HRS § 414D-138; and (3) Count Three (“Injunctive Relief”) seeks to enjoin Defendants from acting in violation of the governing documents and HRS § 414D-138. Compl. at 8-12. The Complaint's prayer seeks the following relief:

A. That the Court issue judgment declaring that: (i) the Hawaii Nurses' Association violated their governing documents; (ii) The Hawaii Nurses' Association improperly removed Plaintiffs Daniel Ross and Marina Robinson from their respective offices of Vice President and Treasurer; and
B. That the Court issue judgment enjoining the Defendants to: (i) cease and desist holding a membership meeting that does not include Plaintiffs' appeals of their Trial Board decisions; and (ii) cease and desist appointing and installing the prevailing candidates on the current election ballot into Offices of the HNA Executive Board.

Id. at 12.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in state court on December 15, 2017, and it was served on December 18, 2017. ECF No. 1-1 at 2; ECF No. 1-2 at 3. A week later, on December 22, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, along with a Motion to Shorten Time for hearing that Motion. ECF Nos. 1-3, 1-5. The Motion for Preliminary Injunction was heard by Judge Dean Ochiai on January 3, 2018. ECF No. 1-10.

         Judge Ochiai issued an oral ruling granting the Motion on January 3, 2018, followed by a written order filed on January 11, 2018 (the “State Court Preliminary Injunction”). ECF No. 1-10. He ordered as follows:

         IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that:

1. Defendant, as well as its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, are enjoined from installation and/or ratification of Defendant's Executive Board, elected by the ballots counted on December 12, 2017;
2. Defendant, as well as its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, are enjoined from conducting further disciplinary proceedings, including appeals, concerning the charges against Plaintiffs, determined by the Trial Board's written decisions issued on November 16, 2017;
3. Defendant, as well as its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, are enjoined from imposing and/or enforcing the penalties in the Trial Board's written decisions issued on November 16, 2017;
This preliminary injunction shall remain in effect for thirty (30) days from January 3, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. During the thirty-day period, the parties are placed back into the positions they were in prior to the following internal charges being filed against Plaintiffs: The charges filed by Terilyn Carvalho Luke against Daniel Ross, dated August 21, 2017; the charges filed by Terilyn Carvalho Luke against Marina Robinson, dated ...

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