Adair v. England

Citation417 F.Supp.2d 1
Decision Date28 February 2006
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 99-2945(RMU).,Civil Action No. 00-0566 (RMU).
PartiesRobert H. ADAIR et al., Plaintiffs, v. Gordon R. ENGLAND, Secretary of the Navy et al., Defendants. Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches et al., Plaintiffs, v. Gordon R. England, Secretary of the Navy et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Arthur A. Schulcz, Sr., Vienna, VA, for Plaintiffs/Defendants.

Michael Q. Hyde, U.S. Department of Justice, Thomas E. Caballero, The United States Senate, Washington, DC, for Defendants.



URBINA, District Judge.


The plaintiffs in this consolidated case are current and former Navy chaplains and an ecclesiastical endorsing agency for military chaplains. The plaintiffs charge that the hiring, retention and promotion policies of the Navy Chaplain Corps demonstrate an unconstitutional endorsement of liturgical Christian sects over non-liturgical Christian sects. Currently before the court is the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order ("TRO"), filed on February 24, 2006.1 This is the plaintiffs' sixth motion for extraordinary interim relief in this case. The plaintiffs move the court to block the Navy from discharging plaintiff Michael Belt and other naval chaplains from active duty on March 1, 2006.2 This motion is linked to the plaintiffs' motion for declaratory judgment and/or partial summary judgment filed the same day. In the declaratory judgment motion, the plaintiffs assert that the personnel composition of promotion selection boards violates the Establishment Clause. This harms the plaintiffs (who were not selected for promotion), they argue, because, as they so un-eloquently state, "a Jew is unlikely to represent a Muslim's interests."3

Because the plaintiffs fail to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits or irreparable injury, the court denies the plaintiffs' motion for a TRO.

A. Factual Background

Because the court has published nearly a dozen opinions in this case, the court will dispense with a full recitation of the lengthy and convoluted factual and procedural background of this case.4 In this consolidated action, the plaintiffs' claims fall into three principal categories: First Amendment Establishment Clause claims, Free Exercise Clause claims and Equal Protection Clause claims. Adair v. England, 183 F.Supp.2d 31, 41 (D.D.C.2002). First, the plaintiffs charge that the Navy has established and maintained an unconstitutional religious quota system that permits them to hire, promote and retain chaplains from liturgical denominations at a rate greater than the liturgical Christians' representation among all Navy personnel. Id. at 41-42. Second, the plaintiffs allege a variety of constitutional problems with the Navy's chaplain-promotion system, including placing more than one Catholic chaplain on promotion boards, the use of chaplains to rate other chaplains, the application of "faith group identifier" codes, and the general domination of the boards by liturgical Protestant and Catholic chaplains. Id. at 42-44. Finally, the plaintiffs assert that the Navy's discriminatory policies against, and general hostility to, non-liturgical denominations deny nonliturgical chaplains and their would-be congregants the constitutional right to free exercise of their religion. Id. at 44-45.

B. Procedural History
1. Procedural Background

Without expending unnecessary judicial resources providing a full exposition of the procedural background of this case, the court notes the following. The court currently has before it a motion for declaratory judgment filed by the plaintiffs in August 2005. In that motion, the plaintiffs move the court to declare that "10 U.S.C. § 618(f) is unconstitutional and exceeds Congress lawful powers in as much as it (1) bars Plaintiffs from taking discovery concerning selection board misconduct from personnel on those boards who witnessed chaplain selection boards proceedings and (2) effectively bars Plaintiffs' constitutional claims and extinguishes their constitutional rights." Mot. for Decl. J. (Aug. 12, 2005) at 1. In short, that motion concerns the plaintiffs' access (or lack thereof) to information concerning the Navy's chaplain selection boards.

2. The Plaintiffs' Motion for Declaratory Judgment and/or Partial Summary Judgment

On February 24, 2006, the plaintiffs filed yet another motion for declaratory judgment. In this motion, the plaintiffs challenge the Navy's chaplain promotion process. Mot. for Decl. J. (Feb. 24, 2006) at "Introduction." According to the plaintiffs, every career grade promotion board and every commander selective early retirement board from 1977 to 2002 included at least one Catholic chaplain.5 Id. at "Introduction" & 14. The plaintiffs characterize this consistent inclusion of a Catholic chaplain on the promotion boards as a "de facto board policy favoring Catholics," which enabled the "favored denomination to control the board results, prejudicing the non-preferred denominations and their chaplains such as [p]laintiffs." Id. at 7. The defendants were able to perpetuate this policy, the plaintiffs believe, by "keeping their actual illicit operating policies unpublished," by "cloaking their illegal behavior behind published policies that falsely averred, `Chaplains are selected for promotion based solely on their relative competitiveness; their religious affiliation is entirely immaterial,'" and by "keeping board proceedings sealed through board confidentiality oaths and then litigating to extremes in order to hide the truth from victims, courts and the public." Id. at 14.

To the plaintiffs, this de facto policy is unlawful in three respects. First, the plaintiffs argue that this policy violates the Navy's own regulations, to wit: Department of Defense Directive 1332.32 ¶ 4.4.1; Secretary of Navy Instruction ("SECNVINST") 1401.3; and Enclosure 1 to SENAVINST 14.1.3, "Supplemental Guidance for U.S. Navy Selection Boards" at 3, ¶1.c.(1)(e) and 9, ¶ 8.c.(1)(e). Pls.' Mot. for Decl. J. (Feb. 24, 2006) at 11. Second, the plaintiffs argue that the policy violates the Establishment Clause. Id. at 10, 39-43. Finally, the plaintiffs contend that the Navy's preferential treatment of Catholic clergy (in their disproportionate representation on the selection board), violates the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause. Id. at 10.

3. The Plaintiffs' Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order

The plaintiffs filed a motion for a TRO coterminous to their motion for declaratory judgment. The plaintiffs' TRO motion advocates that the court should enjoin the Navy from discharging plaintiff Michael Belt and several other naval chaplains on March 1, 2006. Pls.' Mot. at 2. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that a recent change in naval policy6 requires that the Navy terminate those service personnel who were not selected for promotion on two occasions, a group of individuals which includes plaintiff Belt. Id. at 2. According to the plaintiffs, they failed to receive promotions on two occasions because of the defendants' unconstitutional promotion board practices. Id. at 4-6. For this reason, the plaintiffs ask the court to enjoin the Navy from discharging plaintiff Belt as currently scheduled until such time as the court can rule on the underlying legal issues argued in the plaintiffs' motion for declaratory judgment. The court turns to the plaintiffs' motion for a TRO.

A. Legal Standard for Injunctive Relief

This court may issue interim injunctive relief only when the movant demonstrates:

(1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) that it would suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) that an injunction would not substantially injure other interested parties, and (4) that the public interest would be furthered by the injunction.

Mova Pharm. Corp. v. Shalala, 140 F.3d 1060, 1066 (D.C.Cir.1998) (quoting CityFed Fin. Corp. v. Office of Thrift Supervision, 58 F.3d 738, 746 (D.C.Cir.1995)); see also World Duty Free Americas, Inc. v. Summers, 94 F.Supp.2d 61, 64 (D.D.C.2000). It is particularly important for the movant to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. Cf. Benten v. Kessler, 505 U.S. 1084, 1085, 112 S.Ct. 2929, 120 L.Ed.2d 926 (1992) (per curiam). Indeed, absent a "substantial indication" of likely success on the merits, "there would be no justification for the court's intrusion into the ordinary processes of administration and judicial review." Am. Bankers Ass'n v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 38 F.Supp.2d 114, 140 (D.D.C.1999) (internal quotation omitted).

The four factors should be balanced on a sliding scale, and a party can compensate for a lesser showing on one factor by making a very strong showing on another factor. CSX Transp., Inc. v. Williams, 406 F.3d 667 (D.C.Cir.2005) (citing City-Fed Fin. Corp., 58 F.3d at 747). "An injunction may be justified, for example, where there is a particularly strong likelihood of success on the merits even if there is a relatively slight showing of irreparable injury." CityFed Fin. Corp., 58 F.3d at 747.

Moreover, the other salient factor in the injunctive relief analysis is irreparable injury. A movant must "demonstrate at least `some injury" to warrant the granting of an injunction. CityFed Fin. Corp., 58 F.3d at 747 (quotation omitted). Indeed, if a party makes no showing of irreparable injury, the court may deny the motion for injunctive relief without considering the other factors. Id.

Because interim injunctive relief is an extraordinary form of judicial relief, courts should grant such relief sparingly. Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972, 117 S.Ct. 1865, 138 L.Ed.2d 162 (1997). As the Supreme Court has said, "tilt frequently is observed that a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • In re Navy Chaplaincy, Misc. Case No. 07-269 (JDB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2018
    ...of the Navy have articulated secular, neutral standards to guide selection board members in evaluating candidates for promotion"); Adair, 417 F.Supp.2d at 6 (rejecting plaintiffs' "assumption" that "the usual rule for a chaplain sitting on a promotion board will be to discriminate against p......
  • Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, 05-5143.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 7, 2006
    ...J. Without Prejudice 2 n.2 (Feb. 7, 2005) (Mem.Op.). A prolonged series of motions and petitions followed. See, e.g., Adair v. England, 417 F.Supp.2d 1 (D.D.C.2006); Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, 221 F.R.D. 255 (D.D.C.2004); Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. Johnson, 21......
  • Adair v. Winter, Civil Action No. 00-0566 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 11, 2006
    ...Navy from discharging plaintiff Michael Belt and other naval chaplains from active duty in February, 2006. Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, 417 F. Supp 2d 1 (D.D.C.2006). On April 20, 2006, the D.C. Circuit summarily affirmed this court's denial of injunctive relief. Adair v. ......
  • Penland v. Mabus, Civil Action No.: 09-1417 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 7, 2009
    ...resulting from the loss of health benefits rather than the denial of access to critically needed health care) and Adair v. England, 417 F.Supp.2d 1, 9 (D.D.C.2006) (holding that the plaintiff's loss of benefits following his discharge from the Navy did not constitute irreparable injury beca......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT