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11/21/96 GREGORY BLACKSHIRE v. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

November 21, 1996

GREGORY BLACKSHIRE, MILTON MOSELY, MARVIN MOSELY, CEVON HILL, CHRISTOPHER JONES. MARK BARNSDALE, AND EARL KING, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, INC., AND NAACP SOUTHSIDE BRANCH, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Aaron Jaffe, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication January 15, 1997. As Corrected.

The Honorable Justice O'brien delivered the opinion of the court. Cahill, J., and Theis, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'brien

JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the NAACP), appeals from the trial court's order enjoining it from denying certain youth members the right to vote in the election of officers to its southside branch. We granted a stay of the injunction pending appeal. We reverse the trial court and dissolve the injunction.

The relevant facts of this case are undisputed. The NAACP is an incorporated voluntary association that was founded to advance the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens. The senior branches are the local group organizations for adult members of the NAACP. The NAACP has more than 1,600 senior branches, including the defendant southside branch. The NAACP also has about 650 youth councils, which provide opportunities for younger members to participate in the organization.

The branches operate pursuant to the constitution and by-laws for branches (hereinafter "branch constitution"). Article VII the branch constitution provides for various kinds of memberships and sets the membership fee schedules. The "basic adult" membership fee for persons over 21 years of age is $10, or $15 if the member subscribes to "Crisis," the NAACP's nationally circulated magazine. Article VII also sets at $3 the "minimum youth membership without Crisis" for persons who have not reached their twenty-first birthday.

Article V, section 12 of the branch constitution states that "the minimum voting age for any member in good standing in branch elections shall be 17 years. Where there is an active youth council (25 members or more) members 17-20 years of age can vote in the youth council or the branch." A "member in good standing" is defined in article V, section 11 as "a bona fide member of the branch at least thirty (30) days prior to the date the election is held *** who has paid the requisite minimum membership fee to the branch."

The southside branch scheduled officer elections on November 19, 1994. In accordance with the constitutional provisions outlined above, only branch members who had paid the requisite minimum membership fee as of October 19, 1994, would be eligible to vote. On October 19, 1994, Earl King, a candidate for branch president, arrived at the southside branch's office and submitted approximately 3,000 youth membership applications, each with a $3 youth membership fee.

On October 22, 1994, William Penn, Sr., the NAACP'S director of branch and field operations, faxed a memorandum dated October 21, 1994, to all branches. The memorandum stated that on October 15, 1994, the NAACP's national board of directors interpreted Article V, section 12 of the branch constitution as requiring youths to pay the $10 adult membership fee no later than 30 days prior to a branch election in order to participate in that election. As a result, the 3,000 youth members recruited by Earl King could not vote in the November 19, 1994, southside branch election because each of them had paid only the $3 youth membership fee by October 19, 1994.

On November 18, 1994, King and several youth members (plaintiffs) who had paid the $3 youth membership fee by October 19, 1994, filed suit seeking to enjoin the NAACP from denying them the right to vote in the November 19, 1994, southside branch election. Plaintiffs contended that the NAACP's denying them the right to vote constituted a violation of the branch constitution. On November 18, 1994, the trial court granted plaintiffs a temporary restraining order, staying the election pending disposition of their complaint.

On March 15, 1995, the trial court ruled that the branch constitution "clearly" allowed youth members who paid the $3 dues by October 19, 1994, to vote in the November 19, 1994, election. The court entered an order permanently enjoining the NAACP and the southside branch from denying those youth members "their right to vote in the election of officers for the southside branch which was originally scheduled for November 19, 1994."

On March 21, 1995, the trial court rescheduled the election to April 29, 1995, and added to the list of eligible voters all the youth members who had paid the $3 youth membership fee as of October 19, 1994. On April 28, 1995, we granted a stay of the injunction pending appeal.

On appeal, the NAACP argues the trial court erred by "interfering" in its internal affairs and enjoining it from denying the youth members who had paid the $3 youth membership fee as of October 19, 1994, the ...


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