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Preston v. Board of Trustees of Chicago State University

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 14, 2015


Page 802

For Willie Preston, Brittany Bailey, Plaintiffs: Rima Kapitan, Yusra Gomaa, Kapitan Law Office, Ltd. , Chicago, IL.

For Board of Trustees of Chicago State University, Wayne Watson, in his personal and official capacities, Angela Henderson, in her personal and official capacities, Patrick Cage, in his personal and official capacities, Matoya Marsh, in her personal and official capacities, Ronnie Watson, in his personal and official capacities, Defendants: Deborah Morgan Beltran, LEAD ATTORNEY, Michael T. Dierkes, Colin B White, Illinois Office of the Attorney General, Chicago, IL; T. Andrew Horvat, Illinois Attorney General's Office, General Law Bureau, Chicago, IL.

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JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, United States District Judge.

In 2013, plaintiffs Willie Preston (" Preston" ) and Brittany Bailey (" Bailey" ) (collectively, " Plaintiffs" ) were students of Chicago State University (" CSU" ). Both became involved in the Student Government Association (" SGA" ) and ran on platforms criticizing CSU administrators' handling of student affairs. But then the events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred: Preston was expelled, and CSU allegedly not only invalidated an election that Bailey had won, but interfered with her campaign in a subsequent election to insure her defeat.

Plaintiffs brought this suit on May 12, 2014, alleging, inter alia, that the defendants (collectively referred to as " Defendants" or " CSU" ) had retaliated against them for their criticism by expelling Preston and by preventing Bailey from taking SGA office. On March 22, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, seeking an order that would require CSU to reinstate Preston and award both Preston and Bailey positions in student government.

For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction is denied.

I. The Hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Over a five-day period in June 2015, the court held an evidentiary hearing on Plaintiffs'

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motion for preliminary injunction. Five witnesses, including Preston and Bailey but none of the defendants, testified. On the final day of the hearing, the court asked the parties to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.

The court made this request because the record is rife with plots and subplots that have attenuated bearing on Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs introduced evidence, including witness testimony and affidavits, to prove that CSU had retaliated against current and former professors after they had criticized the administration or took Plaintiffs' side. Plaintiffs' objective in introducing this evidence was to show that CSU engaged in a scheme of retaliating against teachers and students who criticized its administrators. But much of the testimony of Plaintiffs' witnesses foundered for lack of foundation, lack of foundation to be admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), reliance on inadmissible hearsay, and irrelevance to Plaintiffs' claims. In the end, the court found Plaintiffs' presentation of evidence confusing.

Plaintiffs' proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law did not resolve the court's confusion. The findings of fact are replete with argument. And the conclusions of law do not articulate the specific claims Plaintiffs are pursuing, the factual bases for those claims, or the relationship between those claims and the injunctive relief Plaintiffs presently seek. As a result, the court was left on its own with the task of determining what Plaintiffs were trying to prove and whether they had proven anything at all.

II. Legal Standard

Plaintiffs seek two remedies in their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law: an order enjoining Defendants from (1) " [c]ontinuing to enforce Preston's October 2013, Expulsion Order; and (2) [c]ontinuing to bar Plaintiffs from serving in the elected positions they won." (ECF No. 121 at 53.)[1] Before the court can address whether Plaintiffs are entitled to this relief, it must determine the legal standard that applies to their motion, which depends on the nature of the injunctive relief at issue. Whereas Plaintiffs claim they are requesting a prohibitory injunction to preserve the status quo, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs are seeking an interlocutory mandatory injunction.

The court concurs with Defendants. In fact, all parties agreed at the beginning of the hearing that Plaintiffs were seeking mandatory injunctive relief. ( See Hrg. Tr. 12:13-15 (" THE COURT: Okay. So everything you're asking for is in the form of a mandatory injunction actually. MS. KAPITAN: Exactly." )). Plaintiffs have since changed their position. Plaintiffs now phrase their requested remedies in terms of ordering Defendants " to cease" an activity. Nevertheless, in practice, implementing the relief Plaintiffs seek would necessitate affirmative action on CSU's part.

Preston, for example, seeks an order directing CSU " to cease" enforcing its expulsion order against him. But this is not a case in which a student was expelled just before an upcoming calendar year and seeks to prevent the expulsion order from going into effect. Rather, Preston was expelled in October 2013. He attended a

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different college last year. He now seeks reentry into CSU. The court thus would be forcing CSU to readmit him. Similarly, Bailey is seeking to be installed into a student government position which another student now occupies, the other student having won a subsequent student election. To grant Bailey's request, the court would have to order CSU to remove that student and replace him or her with Bailey. The same outcome would result if the court ordered CSU to install Preston into the student government position he seeks. Thus, both remedies at issue--reinstating Preston and reinstalling both Preston and Bailey into student government--are more properly understood as mandatory relief.

The difference between a mandatory injunction and a prohibitory injunction lies in the burden the movant must carry to obtain the injunction. Both types of an injunction require " a showing that: (1) the plaintiffs have suffered irreparable harm; (2) monetary damages are inadequate to remedy the injury; (3) an equitable remedy is warranted based on the balance of hardships between the plaintiffs and defendant; and (4) the public interest would be well served by the injunction." Kartman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 634 F.3d 883, 892 (7th Cir. 2011). But the " third part of this test--the balance of hardships--takes on heightened importance when the plaintiff requests a 'mandatory injunction,' that is, an injunction requiring the defendant to perform an affirmative act." Id. " A mandatory injunction imposes significant burdens on the defendant and requires ...

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