State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, Inc. v. State of New Jersey, 091514 FED3, 13-4822

Docket Nº:13-4822
Opinion Judge:HARDIMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Party Name:STATE TROOPERS FRATERNAL ASSOCIATION OF NEW JERSEY, INC., Appellant v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY; SUPERINTENDENT NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE
Judge Panel:Before: FISHER, JORDAN and HARDIMAN, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:September 15, 2014
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

STATE TROOPERS FRATERNAL ASSOCIATION OF NEW JERSEY, INC., Appellant

v.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY; SUPERINTENDENT NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE

No. 13-4822

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

September 15, 2014

NOT PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) September 12, 2014

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. No. 3-13-cv-01065) District Judge: Honorable Peter G. Sheridan

Before: FISHER, JORDAN and HARDIMAN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

HARDIMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

The State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey (STFA) appeals the denial of its request to enjoin an internal investigation of its president, New Jersey State Trooper Christopher Burgos. Because the District Court correctly found that the union cannot succeed on the merits of its claim, we will affirm.

I

Christopher Burgos is a New Jersey state trooper and the elected president of the STFA, the union representing all New Jersey state troopers below the rank of sergeant. As president, Burgos represents the union during labor negotiations and supports union members facing internal discipline, regularly acting as a liaison between the State Police Office of Professional Standards (OPS) and union members and their counsel.

In January 2013, Burgos was notified that he was the target of an internal investigation involving an alleged leak of a confidential document. Specifically, OPS had (apparently accidentally) emailed attorney Katherine Hartman, who represented troopers in matters before OPS, a copy of a report containing the preliminary findings of an internal investigation involving a union member. Hartman, in turn, forwarded the document to Burgos to review in his role as union president—a task Burgos claims he routinely performed with similar files. Burgos then sent the document to the attorneys representing the two troopers discussed in the report.

OPS ordered Burgos to submit to an interview as part of the investigation or face possible dismissal or suspension. In response, the STFA filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey seeking to enjoin the State from investigating Burgos in either an administrative or criminal capacity. Following a hearing on February 22, 2013, the District Court denied the STFA's request for an injunction, but told the union it could return for further review if the interview gave rise to First Amendment concerns.

At the interview, Burgos was told he was being investigated for violating two State Police rules and regulations, including one prohibiting "unauthorized release of information." He was questioned about conversations he had with union attorneys and other union executives and asked to turn over email conversations between himself and his attorneys. He also learned in the interview that OPS was investigating him for "theft" of the document.

About two months after the interview, on April 25, 2013, the STFA filed an amended complaint that sought temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief to block any further investigation of Burgos. The STFA claimed the investigation was intended to harass the union for representing its members and to retaliate against it for disclosing a document the state found embarrassing. The STFA also argued that the investigation was chilling its president's and members' right to engage in protected First Amendment association, and contended it would cause union members to avoid placing their trust in the union president. In December 2013, some two months after a second hearing, the District Court denied the STFA's request, finding it had not satisfied the applicable standard for a preliminary or permanent injunction. The OPS, meanwhile, has continued to investigate Burgos. This appeal followed.

II1

On appeal, the STFA argues that the District Court erred by failing to accept its pleaded facts as true and by concluding it did not meet the requirements for injunctive relief.

As stated, the District Court conducted two hearings. After the District Court declined to grant temporary relief at the first hearing, the STFA filed an amended complaint that continued to seek "temporary, preliminary, and permanent" injunctive relief. At the second hearing, in October, counsel for the State sought clarification that only the request for permanent injunctive relief remained at issue. Counsel for the STFA seemed to ratify this understanding. See Tr. at 33 (SA 33). Nevertheless, because the District Court's opinion and order addressed all forms of injunctive relief, we will do so as well.

Preliminary injunctive relief is an "extraordinary remedy" and appropriate only in limited circumstances. Kos Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Andrx Corp., 369 F.3d 700, 708 (3d Cir. 2004) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). "A party seeking a preliminary injunction must show: (1) a...

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