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Cooley v. California Statewide Law Enforcement Association

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 9, 2019

TERRY C. COOLEY, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          JOHN MENDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arises out of Plaintiff Terry Cooley's attempt to end his union membership after the Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. Am. Fed'n of State, Cty., & Mun. Employees, Council 31, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018) (“Janus”). Terry Cooley (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Cooley”), brings this putative class action alleging the California State Law Enforcement Association (“CSLEA” or “the Union”) violated his constitutional rights by refusing to accept his resignation from union membership, by continuing to deduct union-related fees from his paycheck, and for having assessed him the equivalent of now-impermissible agency fees. Mr. Cooley seeks a declaratory judgment, an injunction, and a refund of certain payments made to the Union.

         CSLEA and the California Association of Law Enforcement Employees (“CALEE”; and with CSLEA, the “Union Defendants”) move to dismiss Mr. Cooley's claims. Union Mot., ECF No. 58. Defendant Xavier Becerra (the “State”) moves to dismiss Mr. Cooley's claims that California Government Code Sections 1152(a) and 1153(a) are unconstitutional. State Mot., ECF No. 59.

         For the reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS the Union Defendants' and State's motions.[1]

         I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A recitation of the primary factual allegations in this case can be found in a prior order issued by this Court and will not be repeated here. See Cooley v. California Statewide Law Enf't Ass'n, No. 2:18-CV-02961-JAM-AC, 2019 WL 331170, at *1-2 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 25, 2019). In that prior order, this Court denied Mr. Cooley's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, finding, among other things, that he failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of his claims. Id.; PI Order, ECF No. 42.

         On February 22, 2019, Mr. Cooley filed a First Amended Class-Action Complaint (“FAC”) alleging five counts:

         (1) declaratory judgment; (2) injunctive relief; (3) monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) conversion and trespass to chattels; and (5) unjust enrichment. FAC, ECF No. 50, ¶¶ 58-68. The FAC includes additional allegations regarding Mr. Cooley's purported union membership application (¶¶ 27-32); allegations that California Government Code Sections 1152(a) and 1153(a) are unconstitutional (¶¶ 38-40); and allegations as to certain anticipated affirmative defenses (¶¶ 50-57). But the foundation of the FAC remains the same as in the original complaint: that the Union violated Mr. Cooley's constitutional rights by refusing to accept his resignation and by continuing to collect money from his paycheck. Mr. Cooley seeks a refund of all compulsory fees paid before Janus, and all dues paid after Mr. Cooley's attempted resignation in the wake of Janus.

         The Union Defendants move to dismiss the FAC in its entirety. Union Mot., ECF No. 58. The State moves to dismiss Mr. Cooley's claims that California Government Code Sections 1152(a) and 1153(a) are unconstitutional. State Mot., ECF No. 59. The Union Defendants join the State's motion. ECF No. 60. Mr. Cooley opposes the motions. Opp'n to Union Mot., ECF No. 61; Opp'n to State Mot., ECF No. 62.

         II. OPINION

         A. Right to Resign Membership Immediately

         Mr. Cooley argues that, under Janus, he has a constitutional right to resign his union membership at his discretion and with immediate effect. As this Court explained in its prior order, Janus did not explicitly announce the right of resignation Mr. Cooley seeks to enforce. PI Order at 5-6. Janus invalidated non-consensual fees charged by unions to nonmembers (i.e. “agency fees”). Janus, 138 S.Ct., at 2486. The relationship between unions and their members was not at issue in Janus. Id. at 2461. Here, unlike in Janus, Mr. Cooley voluntary agreed to become a dues-paying member of the Union, and acknowledged restrictions on when he could withdraw from membership. ECF No. 50-9. Janus did not automatically undo Mr. Cooley's agreement to be a member of the Union, nor did it render the collective bargaining agreement's withdrawal limitation provision unenforceable. See Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 501 U.S. 663, 672 (1991).

         B. Refund of All Dues Paid Post-Janus

         Mr. Cooley further contends, with his attempted resignation after Janus, he revoked any purported consent to pay the Union and that the Union must therefore refund to him all dues deducted from his paycheck after he announced his desire to withdraw from the Union. But, as this Court has previously explained, the continued deduction of dues by the Union here does not ...


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