United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Castillo, Chief Judge United States District Court.
Pierson ("Plaintiff') brings this diversity action
against the National Institute for Labor Relations Research
("NILRR") and Stan Greer ("Greer")
(collectively, "Defendants") alleging defamation
under Illinois law. (R. 12, Second Am. Compl.) Defendants
move to dismiss these claims pursuant to Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6). (R. 21, Mot.) For the
reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendants'
12(b)(2) motion to dismiss and dismisses this lawsuit without
prejudice to refiling in a court that has personal
jurisdiction over Defendants.
is a resident of Cook County, Illinois, and a licensed
attorney currently employed as general counsel to Local 150
of the International Union of Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO,
headquartered in Countryside, Illinois. (R. 12, Second Am.
Compl. ¶ 2.) Defendant NILRR is "a non-profit
research facility analyzing and exposing the inequities of
compulsory unionism." (Id. ¶ 4.)
NILRR's principal office is in Springfield, Virginia.
(Id.) Defendant Stan Greer is a "Senior
Research Associate" for NILRR and is a citizen of
Virginia. (Id. ¶ 5; see also R. 22-1,
Ex. A to Mem., Greer Dec. ¶¶ 2-3; R. 1, Notice of
Removal ¶ 5.)
claims arise out of remarks made during the course of a
series of lawsuits challenging Indiana's
"Right-to-Work" law. (R. 12, Second Am. Compl.)
Shortly after the State of Indiana passed its Right-to-Work
law in 2012, Plaintiff served as lead counsel in a lawsuit
challenging the law. Chief Judge Philip Simon of the U.S.
District Court for the Northern District of Indiana described
Right-to-Work legislation as:
The "Right to Work" label has a nice sound to it,
but is misleading. What these types of laws actually prohibit
are "union security clauses, " which are provisions
in collective bargaining agreements between labor unions and
employers that condition employment on a worker joining the
union. In addition, such clauses permit, as a substitute for
union membership, requiring the payment of fees to the union
or, in the case of religious objection, making a substitute
payment to a charitable organization. So it's not as if
prior to the law's enactment certain people in Indiana
were prevented from working and the law suddenly gave them
the "Right to Work." Rather, it simply prevents
forced union membership.
Sweeney v. Daniels, 2:12CV-81-PPS/PRC, 2013 WL
209047, at *1 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 17, 2013). The district court
dismissed the suit without prejudice because, among other
determinations, it found that Indiana's Right-to-Work law
is not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act
("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(3), and the
plaintiffs had failed to state a valid equal protection
claim. Sweeney, 2013 WL 209047, at *6-12. The U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the
district court's dismissal. Sweeney v. Pence,
767 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 2014).
the appeal was pending, the union plaintiffs refiled their
claims in Lake County, Indiana. (R. 12, Second Am. Compl.
¶ 7.) On September 5, 2013, the Lake County Superior
Court denied the State of Indiana's motion to dismiss and
"found the Right-to-Work law unconstitutional under ...
the Indiana Constitution." (Id.) The Attorney
General of Indiana appealed that decision to the Indiana
Supreme Court. (Id.) On September 4, 2014, the
Indiana Supreme Court heard oral argument in the
aforementioned appeal. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff
argued before the Indiana Supreme Court in opposition to the
appeal. (Id. ¶¶ 6-11.) Ultimately, the
Indiana Supreme Court reversed the lower court and held that
the Right-to-Work law did not violate the Indiana
Constitution. Zoeller v. Sweeney, 19 N.E.3d 749
amended complaint summarizes the arguments he made before the
Indiana Supreme Court. (R. 12, Second Am. Compl. ¶¶
6-11.) Specifically, he argued that Right-to-Work laws are
"fundamentally unfair, " that "[f]ederal law
requires unions to represent fairly all employees in any
given bargaining unit regardless of their membership in the
union, " and that the laws allow "individual
employees to refuse to pay their fair share of the costs of
representing them, allowing such employees to ride for free
on the work of the union paid for by their coworkers."
(Id. ¶ 8.)
after the oral arguments, Defendants posted an article on
NILRR's website under the headline "Operating
Engineers Union Lawyer Fiat-Out Lies to Indiana Supreme
Court, " which reported on the oral argument. (R. 12-1,
Ex. A to Second Am. Compl., Post.) The article was authored
by Greer. (Id.) The article stated:
How can it be, then, that Dale Pierson, the top lawyer for
the other union seeking to overturn Indiana's Right to
Work law judicially, told the Indiana Supreme Court on
September 4 that union officials' representing only those
who join and pay dues "is not a legal possibility"?
The answer is, quite simply, that Pierson flat-out
(Id. (emphasis added).) The post also refers to
"a petition filed with the National Labor Relations
Board seven years ago." (Id.) The post asserts
that in this petition, lawyers for the Steelworkers Union
"acknowledged without qualification that, under... the
[NLRA], in any workplace where no union is recognized as
employees' exclusive bargaining agent, employees'
right to bargain with their employer through a union
remain[s] available and protected, though on a non-exclusive
basis, thus applicable to union members only."
(Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).) According
to Plaintiff, the preceding statement is false because it
fails to acknowledge that the 2007 petition was denied by the
NLRB. (R. 12, Second Am. Compl. ¶ 15.)
September 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed his complaint in the
Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. (R. 1, Notice of
Removal ¶ 1.) Plaintiff alleges that NILRR's post
contained false and defamatory statements and that Defendants
published them knowing that they were false. (Id.
¶¶ 11, 14.) On December 9, 2015, Defendants
timely filed their notice of removal in this Court pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441(a), and 1446. (R. 1,
Notice of Removal at 1.) On January 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed
his amended complaint. (R. 12, Second Am. Compl.)
Plaintiff's amended complaint contains one count alleging
defamation per se against Defendants under Illinois
filed their motion to dismiss on March 15, 2016, pursuant to
Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6), arguing that the Court lacks
personal jurisdiction over Defendants and that Plaintiff
fails to state a claim for defamation. (R. 21, Mot.) The
motion is now fully briefed. (R. 26, Resp.; R. 27, Reply.) As
explained below, because the Court lacks personal
jurisdiction over Defendants, it will not address whether
Plaintiff has stated a claim for defamation per se
under Rule 12(b)(6).