HB 1413 Litigation Update – The Quagmire Continues

Last March, the Circuit Court of St. Louis issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants in Missouri National Education Association, et al. v. Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations, et al. from administering or enforcing the provisions of HB 1413, the new public sector collective bargaining law in Missouri. For a full discussion on the preliminary injunction, please refer to our previous blog post – http://edcounsel.law/2019/03/18/the-buggers-muddle-in-the-wake-of-the-hb-1413-injunction/.

On January 27, 2020, the Circuit Court of St. Louis issued its “Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Granting Summary Judgment to Plaintiffs”, which made the court’s earlier preliminary injunction permanent. Specifically, the court ordered the following:

  1. Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is granted;
  2. HB 1413 is declared void in its entirety; and,
  3. The defendants in the case are permanently enjoined from administering or enforcing any provision of HB 1413.

In the wake of the court’s decision, the obvious question is what effect this has on HB 1413 and other Missouri school districts that are not a party to the case. Unfortunately though, the court’s decision does not clear up the quagmire that school districts across the state have faced since the preliminary injunction was issued.

As with the preliminary injunction, the court’s decision continues to prevent the Missouri State Board of Mediation and the Missouri Department of Labor, among others, from administering or enforcing the provisions of HB 1413. The court goes further in its decision though by declaring HB 1413 to be void in its entirety.  On its face, this would appear to result in HB 1413 no longer being enforceable law. That is not the case though, since the order was issued by a Circuit Court.

Instead, the court’s decision continues to only apply to those entities that are a party to the case. In order to completely invalidate the law across the state, the Missouri Supreme Court would have to declare HB 1413 to be void. At best then, the court’s order in the instant case would apply to any public school district in St. Louis County, though it can be argued that the court’s decision would not even apply to those school districts located in St. Louis County that are not a party to the case.

The end result then is that HB 1413 is still applicable law for those Missouri school districts that were not parties to the case, and the choice presented when the preliminary injunction was issued continues to be the same. On the one hand, a district can continue to follow the law even though a Circuit Court has found it to be unconstitutional in a case in which the district is not a party. On the other hand, a district can choose to violate the law without any order from a court with appropriate jurisdiction to provide the district with the legal authority to do so. The risk with the latter option is that under § 105.595, RSMo. (the statutory citation for provisions of HB 1413), any citizen of the state of Missouri may bring a civil action for relief, including injunctive relief, if a district or a labor organization violates any provision of HB 1413 (§§ 105.570 to 105.590, RSMo.). ​Additionally, the statute states that damages and attorneys’ fees shall be awarded by the court for the enforcement of the terms of HB 1413.​

This dilemma will eventually be resolved, as it is likely that the defendants in the case will appeal the court’s decision. Until then though, Missouri school districts are still left with a difficult choice in determining whether or not to comply with the provisions of HB 1413.