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11/21/96 RICKY ALAN (RICK) BUTLER v. USA VOLLEYBALL

November 21, 1996

RICKY ALAN (RICK) BUTLER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
USA VOLLEYBALL, FORMERLY KNOWN AS UNITED STATES VOLLEYBALL ASSOCIATION, AND LEA WAGNER, COMMISSIONER OF GREAT LAKES REGIONAL VOLLEYBALL ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 96-CH-34. Honorable Michael B. Getty, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication January 15, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Theis delivered the opinion of the court: Hoffman, P.j., and O'brien, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Theis

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the opinion of the court:

The defendants, USA Volleyball and Lea Wagner, Commissioner of the Great Lakes Regional Volleyball Association, present a consolidated appeal of the trial court's order granting a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from enforcing their expulsion of plaintiff, Ricky Alan (Rick) Butler, from USA Volleyball membership, for having sex with minor female players. The trial court found that the standard of conduct contained in USA Volleyball bylaws and invoked to expel Butler was "impermissibly vague." On appeal, defendants argue that the trial court abused its discretion in granting a permanent injunction in favor of Butler. First, defendants contend that the trial court applied an erroneous constitutional standard to determine whether the bylaws of USA Volleyball, a voluntary association, are vague. Second, defendants claim that the trial court erred by not finding that USA Volleyball relied on its implied right to discipline when expelling Butler. We reverse.

Rick Butler, a successful junior volleyball coach, has coached almost 30 national championship junior girls' teams. Butler created the Great Lakes Center in West Chicago, a premier volleyball facility, and operates its Sports Performance Volleyball Club. Butler also runs the largest volleyball camp nationwide and is the "most published video author" in volleyball.

In 1994, USA Volleyball received complaints from several former players alleging that Butler had sexual relationships with them when they were under 18 years old and playing for Butler's volleyball club. Butler and his attorney then met with the executive director and general counsel of USA Volleyball to discuss the allegations. Butler asked for and was provided with information regarding the charges. In November 1994, Lea Wagner, the Commissioner of Great Lakes Regional Volleyball, informed Butler that a formal complaint had been lodged with USA Volleyball and twice requested from Butler a detailed written response specifically admitting or denying the three separate allegations of misconduct. USA Volleyball then outlined its position for Butler, explaining that Butler could be disciplined under USA Volleyball's general discipline authority or pursuant to section 9.04 of USA Volleyball bylaws authorizing disciplinary action for conduct subjecting USA Volleyball to "public embarrassment or ridicule." Pursuant to Butler's request, the Regional Volleyball Association would be the "first level of adjudication" pursuant to section C of article XI of the USA Volleyball operating code.

The regional hearing was held before a panel comprised of four executive committee members of the Great Lakes Regional Volleyball Association. Butler was represented by counsel. Butler and his wife made a prepared statement and the panel received a one-page statement from each of the three girls. At the conclusion of the hearing, the panel believed it had insufficient evidence to consider the charges and requested additional information regarding both Butler's response to the charges and the specifics of the allegations. Several months later, the panel reconvened and unanimously determined that there was probable cause to believe that the alleged misconduct occurred and that the appropriate discipline would entail suspension or expulsion for greater than one year. Accordingly, the matter was referred to the Ethics and Eligibility Committee of USA Volleyball pursuant to article XI(D) of the operating code.

Butler was notified of the regional hearing determination and the hearing date before the Ethics and Eligibility Committee (Ethics Committee). Butler was also provided with a copy of all materials submitted to the Ethics Committee. A de novo hearing was held before the Ethics Committee in July 1995. Butler again was represented by counsel and was given an opportunity to cross-examine the three complainants via questions asked of them through the committee chair. Butler also was allowed to present any and all witnesses who could testify regarding the alleged events.

The Ethics Committee issued its decision, finding that Butler "had unprotected sexual intercourse and a subsequent physical and emotional relationship" with all three girls, two of whom were 16 at the time and the other 17. Accordingly, the Ethics Committee expelled Butler from USA Volleyball membership for life with the option of applying for conditional membership in five years. Butler appealed the decision to the Executive Committee of USA Volleyball which affirmed the decision of the Ethics Committee. Additional appeals to the Board of Directors and the Delegate Assembly of USA Volleyball were available. The parties, however, agreed to consider Butler's administrative appeals exhausted so that he could bring legal action.

Butler filed a motion for a temporary restraining order pursuant to section 11/101 of the Code of Civil procedure (735 ILCS 5/11-101 (West 1994)), which the trial court denied. The court held that Butler did not raise a fair question of success on the merits because the defendants had acted in accordance with USA Volleyball bylaws and operating code, Butler was accorded rudimentary due process, and no emergency existed on which to grant Butler emergency relief.

Butler then filed a motion for a preliminary injunction pursuant to section 11-102 (735 ILCS 5/11-102 (West 1994)) to enjoin defendants from enforcing USA Volleyball's expulsion order. Butler challenged the expulsion order on both substantive and procedural grounds. First, Butler argued that section 9.04 of the USA Volleyball bylaws, authorizing expulsion of members for acts causing the corporation "public embarrassment or ridicule," is an unenforceable standard because the language is impermissibly vague and ambiguous. Second, Butler alleged that USA Volleyball did not follow its own bylaws and operating code in conducting the disciplinary action. And finally, Butler claimed that defendants denied him due process. The trial court allowed a motion to intervene submitted by minor players of the Great Lakes Regional Volleyball Association and minor players on the Sports Performance Volleyball teams coached by Butler. After a hearing on the merits, the parties agreed to have the court decide the matter as a permanent injunction motion.

The trial court granted Butler's motion and permanently enjoined USA Volleyball and Lea Wagner from enforcing the expulsion order of the Ethics Committee. In so holding, the court found that Butler had met all four prongs necessary to obtain injunctive relief: (1) a clear and ascertainable right in need of protection; (2) irreparable harm without injunctive relief; (3) no adequate remedy at law; and (4) success on the merits. Postma v. Jack Brown Buick, Inc., 157 Ill. 2d 391, 399, 626 N.E.2d 199, 204, 193 Ill. Dec. 166 (1993). The court did not address the substantive findings of USA Volleyball that Butler had engaged in the alleged misconduct. Instead, the court found that section 9.04 of the USA Volleyball bylaws presented an "impermissibly vague" standard for expelling a member. The court explained that "public embarrassment and ridicule" was not an objective standard, but rather a subjective one, leaving no limit on the discretion of association disciplinary bodies. The court declined to decide whether USA Volleyball had an implied right to discipline because Butler was not specifically charged with such a violation. The court intimated that the association might be able to discipline Butler based on its implied right to expel members for conduct that clearly violates the fundamental objects of the association, in accordance with the procedures contained in the bylaws and operating code.

On appeal, defendants argue that the trial court erred in granting a permanent injunction in favor of Butler: (1) by applying an erroneous constitutional standard to determine whether the bylaws of USA Volleyball, a voluntary association, are vague; and (2) by not finding that USA Volleyball relied on its implied right to discipline when expelling Butler. We reverse and find that the trial court erred in determining that Butler succeeded on the merits. Therefore, we need not address whether Butler has a protectible property, contract, or membership interest in this situation. Further, we will not ...


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