Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. No. 5, Case No. 3:13CV00127 KGB.

CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Arkansas
Writing for the CourtKRISTINE G. BAKER
Citation955 F.Supp.2d 955
PartiesJames E. STEVENSON III, Sharyn Stevenson, Heath Adkisson, Lori Adkisson, Ryan Braswell, Melissa Braswell, Oliver Coppedge, Tracy Coppedge, George A. Hale III, Stephanie Hale, Jeff Langston, and Missy Langston, Plaintiffs v. BLYTHEVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 5, Defendant.
Decision Date01 July 2013
Docket NumberCase No. 3:13CV00127 KGB.

955 F.Supp.2d 955

James E. STEVENSON III, Sharyn Stevenson, Heath Adkisson, Lori Adkisson, Ryan Braswell, Melissa Braswell, Oliver Coppedge, Tracy Coppedge, George A. Hale III, Stephanie Hale, Jeff Langston, and Missy Langston, Plaintiffs
v.
BLYTHEVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 5, Defendant.

Case No. 3:13CV00127 KGB.

United States District Court,
E.D. Arkansas,
Jonesboro Division.

July 1, 2013.


[955 F.Supp.2d 957]


Jess L. Askew, III, Marie Bernarde Miller, Robert Alexander Gaines, Williams & Anderson, PLC, Little Rock, AR, for Plaintiffs.


OPINION AND ORDER

KRISTINE G. BAKER, District Judge.

Before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction (Dkt. No. 4). Blytheville School District No. 5 (the “Blytheville District”) responded to the motion, as directed by the Court (Dkt. No. 16). On June 17, 2013, the Court entered an order requesting additional briefing by the parties and directed the Blytheville District to respond to the motion for preliminary injunction (Dkt. No. 15). The Court, in that order, also set a hearing on the then-pending motion to dismiss as well as on plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction.1 The Blytheville District filed its brief in response to order entered June 17, 2013 (Dkt. No. 18). Plaintiffs filed their prehearing brief (Dkt. No. 19). The Blytheville District filed its response to plaintiffs' prehearing brief (Dkt. No. 20). Plaintiffs filed their response to order entered June 17, 2013 (Dkt. No. 21).

On June 24, 2013, the Court conducted a hearing on the motion to dismiss and motion for preliminary injunction. For the following reasons, plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction is denied.

I. Factual Background

The Court set forth the factual background for this matter in its separate order denying the Blytheville District's motion to dismiss. The Court incorporates, but will not repeat, that discussion here.

[955 F.Supp.2d 958]

In their motion, plaintiffs request, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a), that this Court enter a preliminary injunction enjoining the Blytheville District to rescind its Resolution to opt out of Act 1227 of 2013, also known as the Arkansas Public School Choice Act of 2013 (the “2013 Act”) for the upcoming school year. Plaintiffs assert that a preliminary injunction is necessary to protect plaintiffs' state-law fundamental right to a public school education, which plaintiffs contend includes exercising their right of public school choice under the 2013 Act. Plaintiffs also assert that a preliminary injunction is necessary to protect plaintiffs from the Blytheville District's denial of their substantive and procedural due process rights and right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, Ark.Code Ann. § 16–123–105.

II. Preliminary Injunction Standard

When determining whether to grant a motion for preliminary injunction, this Court considers: (1) the movant's likelihood of success on the merits; (2) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (3) the balance between the harm to the movant and the injury that granting an injunction would cause other interested parties; and (4) the public interest. Heartland Acad. Cmty. Church v. Waddle, 335 F.3d 684, 690 (8th Cir.2003); Dataphase Sys. Inc. v. CL Sys., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir.1981). A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy, and the party seeking the injunction bears the burden of establishing the four Dataphase factors. Watkins Inc. v. Lewis, 346 F.3d 841, 844 (8th Cir.2003). No single factor is determinative. Dataphase, 640 F.2d at 113. The focus in on “whether the balance of the equities so favors the movant that justice requires the court to intervene to preserve the status quo until the merits are determined.” Id.

A. Probability of Success on the Merits

Plaintiffs purport to bring claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. The Court will focus on plaintiffs' federal 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim. To maintain this claim, plaintiffs must show that the challenged actions were taken under color of law, by an action pursuant to official municipal policy or custom, and deprived them of a right secured by the Fourteenth Amendment. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court concludes plaintiffs likely will succeed in demonstrating the challenged actions were taken under color of law and pursuant to an official municipal policy. However, the Court determines plaintiffs have a low probability of succeeding on their claim that the Blytheville District's actions deprived them of a right secured by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Blytheville District, as a public school district established under the laws of Arkansas, is a state actor and may be held liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Braden v. Mountain Home School District, 903 F.Supp.2d 729, 735 (W.D.Ark.2012) (“A school district may be considered a ‘person’ for purposes of § 1983 liability.”); Young v. Blytheville Sch. Dist., –––S.W.3d ––––, –––– – ––––, 2013 Ark.App. 50, at 9–10 (2013) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)). A plaintiff may establish municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by demonstrating that his or her constitutional rights were violated by an “action pursuant to official municipal policy.” Monell, 436 U.S. at 691, 98 S.Ct. 2018 (internal quotation omitted). “Official policy involves ‘a deliberate choice to follow a course of action ... made from among various alternatives' by an official who [is determined by state law to have]

[955 F.Supp.2d 959]

the final authority to establish governmental policy.” Jane Doe A By & Through Jane Doe B v. Special Sch. Dist. of St. Louis Cnty., 901 F.2d 642, 645 (8th Cir.1990). Plaintiffs claim that, by adopting the Resolution exempting itself from the 2013 Act, the Blytheville District adopted a policy that allegedly deprived plaintiffs of their rights. The Court agrees that the Blytheville District set policy by adopting the Resolution.

The Court now examines whether plaintiffs are likely to succeed in demonstrating that these acts deprived plaintiffs of a right secured by the Fourteenth Amendment. In their complaint, plaintiffs allege the Blytheville District violated the 2013 Act by adopting the Resolution and attempting to exempt itself from the 2013 Act because, according to plaintiffs, the 2013 Act “does not allow any school district in the State of Arkansas to declare an exemption under [L]imitation (b) for the school year beginning in the fall of 2013” (Dkt. No. 2, at 9). Plaintiffs also contend that, even if the 2013 Act permits a school district to declare a Limitation (b) exemption for the school year beginning in the fall of 2013, the Blytheville District does not qualify for and should not be permitted to declare a Limitation (b) exemption. Plaintiffs contend that, as a consequence of the allegedly unlawful action of the Blytheville District, plaintiffs “will be deprived of their right to school choice under the Act unless appropriate injunctive relief is granted by this Court” (Dkt. No. 2, at 11).

For purposes of resolving this motion for preliminary injunction, the Court determines it need not decide whether the Blytheville District violated the 2013 Act by impermissibly declaring a Limitation (b) exemption. Violations of state law, state-agency regulations, and state-court orders do not, by themselves, state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Ebmeier v. Stump, 70 F.3d 1012, 1013 (8th Cir.1995). “Section 1983 guards and vindicates federal rights alone.” Id. Even if the Blytheville District violated the 2013 Act, a question this Court declines to reach today when evaluating plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief, the Court determines plaintiffs have a low probability of succeeding on the merits of establishing a violation of their constitutional rights. “In deciding whether to grant a preliminary injunction ‘likelihood of success on the merits is most significant.’ ” S.J.W. ex rel. Wilson v. Lee's Summit R–7 School Dist., 696 F.3d 771, 776 (8th Cir.2012) (quoting Minn. Ass'n of Nurse Anesthetists v. Unity Hosp., 59 F.3d 80, 83 (8th Cir.1995); S & M Constructors, Inc. v. Foley Co., 959 F.2d 97, 98 (8th Cir.1992)). If a party's likelihood of succeeding on the merits is sufficiently low, a court may deny a preliminary injunction even if the other three factors—irreparable harm, balance of the harms, and the public interest—weigh in the party's favor. See CDI Energy Servs., Inc. v. W. River Pumps, Inc., 567 F.3d 398, 402 (8th Cir.2009) (“[T]he absence of a likelihood of success on the merits strongly suggests that preliminary injunctive relief should be denied....”); Mid–Am. Real Estate Co. v. Iowa Realty Co., 406 F.3d 969, 972 (8th Cir.2005) (“[A]n injunction cannot issue if there is no chance of success on the merits....”). The Court will examine each of plaintiffs' constitutional claims: substantive due process, procedural due process, and equal protection.

1. Due Process

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids states to “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law....” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has two components: namely, substantive due

[955 F.Supp.2d 960]

process and procedural due process. Singleton v. Cecil, 176 F.3d 419, 424 (8th Cir.1999). Here, plaintiffs allege both a substantive and procedural due process violation.

In support of their due process claims, plaintiffs contend that, because the 2013 Act does not permit Limitation (b) exemptions for the 2013–14 school year, the Blytheville District's Resolution serves no legitimate governmental interest recognized in Arkansas and that the Blytheville District's actions were completely and entirely irrational and at odds with the law and public policy of Arkansas (Dkt. No. 2, at 13–14). Specifically, plaintiffs claim that the Blytheville District took its...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 practice notes
  • Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. # 5, No. 14–3746.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • August 31, 2015
    ...that the approval of KIPP occurred “under laws different than those being discussed here.” Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. No. 5, 955 F.Supp.2d 955, 968 (E.D.Ark.2013). Although the District was one of the parties with the responsibility of “review[ing] the potential impact of an applic......
  • Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. #5, No. 14-3746
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • August 31, 2015
    ...that the approval of KIPP occurred "under laws different than those being discussed here." Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. No. 5, 955 F. Supp. 2d 955, 968 (E.D. Ark. 2013). Although the District was one of the parties with the responsibility of "review[ing] the potential impact of an ap......
2 cases
  • Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. # 5, No. 14–3746.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • August 31, 2015
    ...that the approval of KIPP occurred “under laws different than those being discussed here.” Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. No. 5, 955 F.Supp.2d 955, 968 (E.D.Ark.2013). Although the District was one of the parties with the responsibility of “review[ing] the potential impact of an applic......
  • Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. #5, No. 14-3746
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • August 31, 2015
    ...approval of KIPP occurred "under laws different than those being discussed here." Stevenson v. Blytheville Sch. Dist. No. 5, 955 F. Supp. 2d 955, 968 (E.D. Ark. 2013). Although the District was one of the parties with the responsibility of "review[ing] the potential impact of......

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