By Dave Strausfeld, J.D.
A group of state-funded homecare providers sought to preliminarily enjoin the state from certifying a union to represent them. But because the election had already been held and the union certified, the issue was now moot, so the Eighth Circuit dismissed their appeal of the preliminary injunction denial for lack of jurisdiction. However, they could continue to litigate their constitutional challenge to the state law authorizing homecare providers to organize as state employees (Bierman v. Dayton
, March 22, 2016, Riley, W.).
The State of Minnesota has several programs through which it pays homecare providers to deliver services to individuals with disabilities or the elderly. In 2013, Minnesota enacted a law that recognized individual homecare providers as state employees for purposes of collective bargaining only. One year later, the Services Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota (SEIU) petitioned to initiate an election.
Sought to block union from being certified.
Nine homecare providers filed suit against the governor, SEIU, and others, claiming that the election of an exclusive representative would violate their First Amendment right to freedom of association because it would compel them to associate with a union. They moved for a preliminary injunction, but the district court denied the motion, reasoning that because the certification election had not yet been held, the request was premature. However, after the state tabulated the election results and certified SEIU as the exclusive representative, the homecare providers renewed their motion. Once again, though, the district court denied the motion, this time ruling that the homecare providers were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claims.
Issue now moot.
The homecare providers appealed but the Eighth Circuit found the issue moot. Although the denial of a preliminary injunction is immediately appealable, the appeals court explained, the matter becomes moot if the act sought to be enjoined has already occurred. Here, the event the homecare providers had attempted to stop—the election and subsequent certification of SEIU as the exclusive representative—had already occurred.
The homecare providers urged that their initial request for relief should be understood to also encompass the decertification
of the union. But their motion for a preliminary injunction applied, on its face, to the then-ongoing mail ballot election, the appeals court concluded.
Not “capable of repetition, yet evading review.”
Although there is an exception to the mootness doctrine for issues that are capable of repetition, yet evading review, this exception did not apply here. Whatever harm had occurred from the election and certification was not capable of repetition because SEIU had already been certified. No legal issue evaded review because the homecare providers’ challenge to the 2013 state law was still pending before the district court. For these reasons, the appeal of the preliminary injunction denial was moot and had to be dismissed, held the appeals court.