The Bugger’s Muddle in the Wake of the HB 1413 Injunction

On March 8, 2019, the Circuit Court of St. Louis preliminarily enjoined the defendants in the matter styled Missouri National Education Association, et al. v. Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations, et al. from administering or enforcing the provisions of HB 1413, Missouri’s new public sector collective bargaining law.  The case was brought by several different labor unions, including MNEA, against the Department of Labor and the State Board of Mediation, as well as local defendants, including the Hazelwood and Ferguson-Florissant school districts.

The injunction now leaves all other Missouri public school districts in a bit of a bugger’s muddle.  On one hand, the court’s order states that the provisions of HB 1413 violate the constitutional rights of public employees to bargain collectively.  On the other hand, the applicable law and the text of the Court’s order itself make clear that the injunction only applies to the defendants in the pending lawsuit.  The provisions of HB 1413 are still the law of Missouri and school districts who are not a party to the pending lawsuit have no controlling legal authority to disregard the law.

Under the law, all necessary parties must be joined in an injunction action.  Sup. Ct. R. 52.04; Rocky Ridge Ranch Property Owners Ass’n v. Areaco Inv. Co. Inc., 993 S.W.2d 553 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 1999).  The parties that must be joined generally include all persons against whom the injunction is to be effective.  If a statute is at issue in the case, the Declaratory Judgment Act, V.A.M.S. § 527.110, may require joinder or notice to governmental entities implementing the statute.  See Eastern Missouri Laborers’ Dist. Council v. City of St. Louis, 951 S.W.2d 654 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 1997).  Injunctions bind only the parties in the case, their officers, agents, servants, employees, their attorneys, and those acting in active concert or participation with the parties-defendant who receive actual notice of the injunction.  Sup. Ct. R. 92.02(e); Williams Pipeline Co. v. Allison & Alexander, Inc., 80 S.W.3d 829 (Mo. Ct. App. W.D. 2002).

Under the applicable rule, a preliminary injunction is limited in application to parties in the case and people acting in concert with them.  If we look at the text of the order entered in the St. Louis case, it is actually more limited in scope than what is permitted under the law.  The order states, “the Defendants are hereby preliminarily enjoined from administering or enforcing any provision of HB 1413.”  It makes no mention of persons or entities in active concert or participation with them.  By its terms, the court’s preliminary injunction order is limited strictly to the defendants in the case.

Under the circumstances, Missouri public school districts are left to either follow the law, or violate the law without any court order providing legal authority to do so.  At some point, these circumstances will change.  School districts will have a controlling court order from a court with appropriate jurisdiction that makes clear that the district does not have to follow the provisions of HB 1413, or in the alternative, the law is constitutionally appropriate.  In the meantime, school leaders are left to enjoy the bugger’s muddle that has been presented by the legal uncertainty surrounding the implementation of HB 1413.