United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
EAGLE FORUM, an Illinois Not for Profit Corporation, and ANNE SCHLAFLY CORI, on behalf of EAGLE FORUM, et al., Plaintiffs,
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY'S AMERICAN EAGLES, a Virginia Not for Profit Corporation, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL Chief U.S. District Judge
August 24, 2016, Anne Schlafly Cori, Eunie Smith, Cathie
Adams, Carolyn McLarty, Rosina Kovar, and Shirley Curry
(“the Cori Plaintiffs”) commenced this suit
against Phyllis Schlafly's American Eagles
(“PSAE”), as a derivative action on behalf of
Eagle Forum, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation (Doc. 1).
At all relevant times, the Cori Plaintiffs were members of
Eagle Forum's Board of Directors (Id. at pp.
2-3). They alleged that a faction within Eagle Forum's
leadership formed an alliance to replace the corporation by
forming PSAE, a Virginia not-for-profit corporation
(Id. at pp. 9-12). According to the Cori Plaintiffs,
PSAE unlawfully appropriated and utilized Eagle Forum's
assets and resources, but Eagle Forum was averse to bringing
suit because four members of its Board of Directors were also
members of PSAE's Board of Directors (Id.).
Accordingly, Eagle Forum was named as a nominal defendant
January 23, 2017, the Cori Plaintiffs filed a First Amended
Complaint that realigned Eagle Forum as a plaintiff (Doc.
40). The re-alignment was a result of “a number of
events . . . including a board vacancy, the removal of
certain officers, and rulings in ancillary litigation
regarding the control and function of Eagle Forum” that
led to Eagle Forum “fully support[ing]” the
pursuit of this action (Doc. 32, p. 2).
December 12, 2018, PSAE filed a Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings (Doc. 155), arguing the Cori Plaintiffs lack
standing to bring this suit or, alternatively, should be
dismissed as dispensable parties under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 23.1 (Doc. 156). PSAE also notes,
PSAE has previously argued that [the] directorial changes
violated Eagle Forum's By-Laws and are thus invalid. For
the sake of brevity, PSAE does not address the validity of
such changes for the limited purpose of this motion. However,
PSAE does not waive its rights to re-raise such argument in
(Id. at p. 2 n.1).
Cori Plaintiffs argue the motion is procedurally defective,
but fails nonetheless, because PSAE disputes the validity of
the Cori Plaintiffs' control of Eagle Forum (Doc. 165).
Thus, the Cori Plaintiffs contend they are “proper
alternative plaintiffs” (Id.).
on the Pleadings Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for
judgment on the pleadings after the plaintiff's complaint
and the defendant's answer have been filed. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(c); Moss v. Martin, 473 F.3d 694, 698 (7th Cir.
2007). A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is
governed by the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim. Lodholtz v. York
Risk Service Group, Inc., 778 F.3d 635, 639 (7th Cir.
2015). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Lodholtz, 778
F.3d at 639 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009)). In making this determination, the court
must construe all facts in the pleadings and draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Lodholtz, 778 F.3d at 639. Judgment on the pleadings
should be granted if the “facts are uncontested”
and reveal that relief for the plaintiff is no longer
plausible. See Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635,
637-38 (7th Cir. 2012).
Cori Plaintiffs argue that PSAE's motion fails because
Rule 12(c) does not allow piecemeal dismissal of claims and
because PSAE cites matters outside the pleadings. But is
well-established that the Court can address standing on its
own, even when a party fails to raise the issue. Rawoof
v. Texor Petroleum Co., Inc., 521 F.3d 750, 757 (7th
Cir. 2008). Similarly, the Court can sua sponte drop
parties under Rule 21 as improperly joined. Fed.R.Civ.P. 21.
Thus, any procedural defect in PSAE's motion does not
prevent the Court from considering the issues before it.
III of the Constitution limits the judicial power of the
federal courts to adjudicating “cases” and
“controversies.” Hein v. Freedom From
Religion Foundation, Inc., 551 U.S. 587, 597 (2007).
“One of the controlling elements in the definition of a
case or controversy under Article III is standing.”
Id. (internal quotations, citations, and alterations
omitted). “[T]he irreducible constitutional minimum of
standing consists of three elements.” Spokeo, Inc.
v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016). The plaintiff
must have (1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly
traceable to the defendant's challenged conduct, and (3)
is redressable by the Court. Id. As the party
invoking the federal court's jurisdiction, the plaintiff
bears the burden of establishing these elements. Id.
the First Amended Complaint alleges PSAE violated a number of
federal and state laws by appropriating Eagle Forum's
assets and resources, including money, intellectual property,
mailing lists, real and personal property, and a P.O. Box,
and that as a result of PSAE's unlawful actions, Eagle
Forum has suffered irreparable harm to its business (Doc. 40,
p. 9). These allegations easily satisfy Article III's
standing requirements for Eagle Forum. But the parties
disagree as to whether the Cori Plaintiffs also have standing
to pursue this action. “Where at least one plaintiff
has standing, jurisdiction is secure and the court will
adjudicate the case whether the additional plaintiffs have
standing or not.” Ezell v. City of Chicago,
651 F.3d 684, 696 n.7 (7th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, whether
or not the Cori Plaintiffs have standing makes no difference
to the merits of the case and will not be addressed. See,
e.g., Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional
Rights, Inc., 547 U.S. 47, 52 n.2 (2006) (“The
Court of Appeals did not determine whether the other
plaintiffs have standing because the presence of one party
with standing is sufficient to satisfy Article III's
case-or-controversy requirement); Arlington Heights ...