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Mary L. Corner v. Jackie Engelhart

October 4, 2011

MARY L. CORNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JACKIE ENGELHART, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Feinerman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Mary L. Corner claims to be the duly elected President of Northwest Illinois Area Local 7140, American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO ("NWIAL"). So does Defendant Jackie Engelhart, and it is Engelhart who is currently occupying the office of President and discharging its duties. In this suit to enforce what she claims to be the official decision declaring her President, Corner asks the court to order Engelhart to vacate NWIAL's building and to turn over its books, papers, and records. Engelhart has moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), while Corner has moved to enjoin Engelhart from performing any work as NWIAL's President. Engelhart's motion is granted, and Corner's motion is denied without prejudice for want of jurisdiction.

Because subject matter jurisdiction is at issue, the court may "may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Evers v. Astrue, 536 F.3d 651, 656-57 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The evidence of record shows the following facts to be beyond reasonable dispute.

NWIAL represents certain United States Postal Service employees and maintains its office in Elmhurst, Illinois. Doc. 13 at ¶ 2. Corner and Engelhart were candidates in the April 2011 election for President of NWIAL. Id. at ¶ 3. The American Arbitration Association certified Engelhart as the winner by a 537-268 margin. Ibid.; Doc. 13-1 at 2-3.

The NWIAL Constitution establishes an Election Committee, consisting of three members and one alternate member, to handle election protests. Doc. 13 at ¶ 4; Doc. 13-1 at 21, 25-29. Corner protested the April 2011 election on ground that Engelhart was ineligible to run for and serve as President. Doc. 21-1 at 63; see also Doc. 13 at ¶ 6; Doc. 13-1 at 38-39. A similar protest was filed by Maria Porch-Clark, the Chairperson of the NWIAL Election Committee. Doc. 22 at 31-32; see also Doc. 13 at ¶ 5; Doc. 13-1 at 35-36. On May 5, 2011, the NWIAL Election Committee-composed of its two other members plus the alternate-ruled that Porch-Clark, having filed a protest, could not sit on the Committee for that election cycle and would be replaced by the alternate; the Committee also rejected Porch-Clark's protest on the merits, finding that it was untimely and that Engelhart was eligible to run for and serve as President. Doc. 13 at ¶ 5; Doc. 13-1 at 35-36. The same day, the Committee rejected Corner's protest, again finding that Engelhart was eligible. Doc. 13 at ¶ 6; Doc. 13-1 at 38-39.

The NWIAL Constitution provides that members may appeal an adverse decision of the NWIAL Election Committee to the National Election Appeals Committee of NWIAL's parent organization, the American Postal Workers Union ("APWU"). Doc. 13 at ¶ 4; Doc. 13-1 at 26. Corner did just that on May 17, 2011. Doc. 21-1. Her appeal (1) challenged the composition of the NWIAL Election Committee, arguing that Porch-Clark had been wrongfully replaced by the alternate, and (2) maintained that Engelhart was not eligible to run for or serve as President. Id.

at 2-7; Doc. 21-2; Doc. 21-3. The National Election Appeals Committee followed up with information requests regarding both elements of Corner's appeal. Doc. 22 at 23-27. On August 1, 2011, the National Election Appeals Committee denied the appeal. Its decision reads:

Dear Ms. Corner:

The National Election Appeals Committee (NEAC) has reviewed the above-referenced appeal with regard to the Northwest Illinois Area Local. After careful review of all documents and evidence provided, the NEAC upholds the decision of the Local Election Committee and denies your election appeal in its entirety.

Based upon the decision of the National Election Appeals Committee, the following officers are the duly elected officers of the Northwest Illinois Area Local based upon the votes of the membership:

Jackie Engelhart, President

Dave Baskin, Vice President

Al Modi, Treasurer

Olivia Norman, Clerk Craft Director Joe Golden, ...


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