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Mary Corner v. Hilda Solis

June 1, 2012

MARY CORNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HILDA SOLIS, SECRETARY OF LABOR, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and the matter is remanded in part to the Department of Labor for a supplemental statement of reasons.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Mary Corner seeks administrative review of the Secretary of Labor's decision not to challenge the April 2011 election for Northwest Illinois Area Local 7140, American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO ("NWIAL" or "Local"). Plaintiff has already filed one suit challenging the election results, which was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Judge Gary S. Feinerman's opinion well summarizes the underlying facts. See Corner v. Engelhart, 11 C 5183, 2011 WL 4688723 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 4, 2011) (hereinafter, "Corner III"). Briefly, however, Plaintiff lost the race for NWIAL President. She filed a protest claiming that three winning incumbent candidates - Jackie Engelhart (President), David Baskin (Vice President), and Linda Retel (Secretary) - were ineligible to run because each had failed to pay their dues in the year before the election, and therefore had not been in good standing for 12 months as required by the NWIAL Constitution. Plaintiff bases her claim on the fact that the "dues check-off lists" - which reflect whether a member's dues were withheld from her U.S. Postal Service ("USPS") paycheck in a given pay period, and then paid directly to the union - show that each incumbent failed to pay his or her dues through the check-off withholding system at least once in the year before the election.

NWIAL has an Election Committee (of three members and one alternate) which handles election protests. On May 5, 2011, two committee members and the alternate rejected Plaintiff's election challenge on behalf of the Committee. Plaintiff appealed to the National Election Appeals Committee (the "NEAC"). Shortly before the NEAC rejected all of Plaintiff's claims, Maria Porch-Clark ("Porch-Clark"), the Committee chairperson, purported to remove the three incumbents from office and install Plaintiff as President. She had not joined the prior Committee ruling, and noted in her letters that she acted alone in ousting the incumbents.

After the NEAC rejected her claims, Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Department of Labor (the "Department"). The Department investigated and found that the lists reflected dues that the USPS withheld from its employees' pay, but not whether members paid their dues by any other method (as allowed by the Local's rules). As described in greater detail below, the Secretary found that the incumbents were eligible to run. On December 28, 2011, the Department sent Plaintiff a statement of reasons explaining the denial.

Defendant has moved to dismiss the Complaint, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed a "Motion to Denied [sic] Defendants [sic] Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment." It appears that this was intended to be a response to Defendant's Motion, not Plaintiff's own Motion for summary judgment.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion to Dismiss

On a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the Complaint and draws all inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011). A complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). It "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [that it] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). If the movant meets its burden, the non-movant must present facts showing a genuine dispute to avoid summary judgment. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323--24 (1986). Courts construe the facts in the non-movant's favor, but where the record as a whole "could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S.Ct. 2658, 2677 (2009) (citation omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Before proceeding to the merits, the Court must decide what evidence to consider. In a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), consideration is generally limited to the complaint and documents attached to it. If a party presents extraneous matter which the court does not strike, the court must deem the motion one for summary judgment and give the other side a chance to respond in kind. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(d). However, if the motion is labeled as one alternatively seeking summary judgment, that sufficiently notifies the opposing party. Miller v. Herman, 600 F.3d 726, 733 (7th Cir. 2010). Here, Plaintiff clearly responded to this motion, in part, as one for summary judgment. However, many of the documents are unnecessary. As discussed ...


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