40 F.3d 926 (8th Cir. 1994), 94-2324, Pottgen v. Missouri State High School Activities Ass'n

Docket Nº:94-2324.
Citation:40 F.3d 926
Party Name:Edward Leo POTTGEN, Appellee, v. The MISSOURI STATE HIGH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES ASSOCIATION, Appellant. National Federation of State High School Associations; Iowa High School Athletic Association; Nebraska School Activities Association; South Dakota High School Activities Association, Amicus Curiae.
Case Date:November 16, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 926

40 F.3d 926 (8th Cir. 1994)

Edward Leo POTTGEN, Appellee,

v.

The MISSOURI STATE HIGH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES ASSOCIATION, Appellant.

National Federation of State High School Associations; Iowa

High School Athletic Association; Nebraska School

Activities Association; South Dakota

High School Activities

Association, Amicus Curiae.

No. 94-2324.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 16, 1994

Submitted Sept. 16, 1994.

Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En Banc Denied Jan.

24, 1995.[*]

Page 927

Mallory V. Mayse, Columbia, MO, argued, for appellant.

Kenneth M. Chackes, St. Louis, MO, argued (John T. Murray, on the brief), for appellee.

Before RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and BEAM, Circuit Judges.

BEAM, Circuit Judge.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association (hereinafter "MSHSAA") appeals the issuance of a preliminary injunction which restrains it from enforcing its age limit for interscholastic sports against Edward Leo Pottgen. Pottgen repeated two grades in elementary school due to an undiagnosed learning disability. By his senior year, this

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delay in completing his education made him too old to play interscholastic baseball under MSHSAA eligibility standards. In district court, Pottgen challenged the age limit as violating section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and section 1983. Because we find that Pottgen is not a qualified individual under these statutes, we reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

After Pottgen repeated two grades in elementary school, the school tested him to see whether he needed special classroom assistance. When the school discovered that Pottgen had several learning disabilities, it placed him on an individualized program and provided him with access to special services. With these additional resources, Pottgen progressed through school at a normal rate. It is not clear from the evidence whether he attempted to make up the lost time through summer school or other remedial activities.

Pottgen was active in sports throughout junior high and high school. He played interscholastic baseball for three years in high school and planned to play baseball his senior year as well. However, because he had repeated two grades, Pottgen turned nineteen shortly before July 1 of his senior year. Consequently, MSHSAA By-Laws rendered Pottgen ineligible to play. 1 The MSHSAA By-Law states, in relevant part, "A student shall not have reached the age of nineteen prior to July 1 preceding the opening of school. If a student reaches the age of nineteen on or following July 1, the student may be considered eligible for [interscholastic sports during] the ensuing school year."

Pottgen petitioned MSHSAA for a hardship exception to the age limit since he was held back due to his learning disabilities. Pottgen struck out. MSHSAA determined that waiving the requirement violated the intent of the age eligibility rule.

Pottgen then brought this suit, alleging MSHSAA's age limit violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the "Rehabilitation Act"), the Americans With Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), and section 1983. The district court granted a preliminary injunction enjoining MSHSAA from "(i) preventing [Pottgen] from competing in any Hancock High School baseball games or district or state tournament games; and (ii) imposing any penalty, discipline or sanction on any school for which or against which [Pottgen] competes in these games." Pottgen v. Missouri State High Sch. Activities Ass'n, 857 F.Supp. 654, 666 (E.D.Mo.1994).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Mootness

Pottgen has now played his last game of high school baseball. Thus, the portion of the injunction permitting him to play is moot. However, a live controversy still exists regarding the portion of the injunction which prohibits MSHSAA from imposing sanctions upon a high school for whom or against whom Pottgen played. See Wiley v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 612 F.2d 473, 476 (10th Cir.1979) (graduation of college track athlete did not completely moot injunction allowing him to compete because athlete's victories, records and awards were still at issue), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 943, 100 S.Ct. 2168, 64 L.Ed.2d 798 (1980). In Beck v. Missouri State High Sch. Activities Ass'n, 18 F.3d 604, 606 (8th Cir.1994), we recently found completely moot an appeal involving the denial of a preliminary injunction regarding student eligibility standards. However, because the student in Beck did not play during his ineligible period no permanent records and awards were affected by the district court action.

B. Injunctive Relief

When considering a motion for a preliminary injunction, a district court weighs the movant's probability of success on the merits, the threat of irreparable harm to the movant absent the injunction, the balance between this harm and the injury that the injunction's issuance would inflict on other interested parties, and the public interest.

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Dataphase Sys., Inc. v. C L Sys., Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir.1981) (en banc). We reverse the issuance of a preliminary injunction only if the issuance "is the product of an abuse of discretion or misplaced reliance on an erroneous legal premise." City of Timber Lake v. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, 10 F.3d 554, 556 (8th Cir.1993), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 2741, 129 L.Ed.2d 861 (1994).

The district court's issuance of a preliminary injunction required the court to determine that Pottgen was a proper plaintiff under the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA and section 1983. Because we find that Pottgen is not an aggrieved party under these statutes, we do not reach MSHSAA's other arguments on appeal.

  1. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

    MSHSAA appeals the district court's finding that Pottgen could potentially prevail under the...

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