United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
DEQUILA MATHEWS CALDWELL and JUSTIN MATHEWS-WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
MISSOURI STATE HIGH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES ASSOCIATION; FRANCIS HOWELL NORTH HIGH SCHOOL; and MICHAEL JANES, in his individual and official capacities, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case began with the request of Justin Mathews-Williams and
his mother, Dequila Mathews-Caldwell (Plaintiffs), for a
temporary restraining order ("TRO") and a
preliminary injunction prohibiting Francis Howell North High
School ("Francis Howell") from enforcing Section
2.2.2 of the Missouri State High School Activities
Association ("MSHSAA") By-Laws stating that a
student who has "commit[ted] an act for which charges
may or have been filed" is not eligible to participate
in interscholastic activities. (Pis. Compl Ex. 1 at 43.)
Mathews-Williams had been suspended from his high school
basketball team after being charged with a misdemeanor; and,
arguing that Section 2.2.2 is racially discriminatory in
intent and purpose because people of color are arrested more
frequently than others, he sought an order requiring he be
allowed to participate in Senior Night and in the remaining
games of the season. In his contemporaneously-filed 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 complaint, he also requested "monetary
relief and a declaratory judgment that MSHSAA's
application of Sections 2.2.2 and 2.2.3 (delineating
authority of local school to, among other things, set
"more restrictive citizenship standards") is
illegal racial discrimination in violation of the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
a hearing on the TRO request, the Court directed that
Mathews-Williams be allowed to appear, with certain
limitations, with the basketball team for Senior Night. The
Court ordered that his suspension from playing in basketball
games was to remain in full force and effect. A hearing on
his request for a preliminary injunction was scheduled.
Night was the same day as the TRO hearing. Mathews-Williams
did not appear. (Janes' Aff. ¶ 8; ECF No. 26-1.)
Francis Howell played their last basketball game of the
season on February 24, 2018. (Id. ¶¶ 9,
days later, MSHSAA filed an amended motion to dismiss,
arguing, in relevant part, that the case is moot. Six days
later, Francis Howell and Michael Janes moved to dismiss on
the grounds of mootness and, as to the claims of Dequila
Mathews-Caldwell, of lack of standing. Plaintiffs have not
responded to either motion.
III of the Constitution limits federal-court jurisdiction to
"cases" and "controversies."'
United States v. McHatten, 869 F.3d 622, 623
(8th Cir. 2017) (quoting Campbell-Ewald Co. v.
Gomez, 136 S.Ct. 663, 669 (2016)). "'If an
intervening circumstance deprives the plaintiff of a personal
stake in the outcome of the lawsuit, at any point during the
litigation, the action can no longer proceed and must be
dismissed as moot.'" Campbell-Elward, 136
S.Ct. at 669 (quoting Genesis Healthcare Corp. v.
Symczyk, 569 U.S. 66, 72 (2013)). See also Camreta
v. Greene, 563 U.S. 692, 711 (2011) (there is no live
controversy to review when "subsequent events ma[ke] it
absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could
not reasonably be expected to recur") (interim
quotations omitted) (alteration in original).
sought an order directing Defendants to allow
Mathews-Williams to play in this season's remaining
basketball games. The season is now over. Their request is
moot. See McFarlin v. Newport Special School Dist.,
980 F.2d 1208, 1210 (8th Cir. 1992) (dismissing as
moot appeal from denial of TRO and preliminary injunction in
case challenging school board's decision banning senior
girl from participating on basketball team; girl had
graduated and "court [could not] place [her] back on the
basketball team"). See also Mount Carmel High School
v. Illinois High School Ass 'n, 664 N.E.2d 252, 254
-55 (Ill.Ct.App. 1996) (high school's challenge to
athletic association's decision barring school from
participating in wrestling meet on grounds school had
violated association's by-laws was rendered moot when
meet was canceled); Univ. Inter scholastic League v.
Jones, 715 S.W.2d 759, 760-61 (Tex.Ct.App. 1986) (appeal
of trial court's decision allowing defendant to play high
school football was rendered moot when defendant graduated
from high school).
exception to the mootness doctrine exists for cases that are
capable of repetition, yet evade review. Stevenson v.
Blytheville School Dist. No. 5, 762 F.3d 765, 769
(8th Cir. 2014).
[A] controversy is capable of repetition, yet evading review
where both of the following two requirements are met: (1) the
challenged action [is] in its duration too short to be fully
litigated prior to its cessation or expiration, and (2) there
[is] a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party
[will] be subjected to the same action again.
Id. (quotations omitted) (alterations in original).
In Stevenson, the court held that the appeal from
the denial of a preliminary injunction enjoining a school
district from adopting a measure which would effectively
prevent the children of plaintiffs from transferring schools
was rendered moot when the school year ended. The controversy
was "not 'capable of repetition'" because
the issue pertained to one school year, and that school year
was complete. Id. at 770. Similarly, Plaintiffs
challenge the decision suspending Mathews-Williams for the
remainder of the 2018 basketball season. That season is
complete. Moreover, Mathews-Williams is a senior and will not
be playing next season.
advance no argument as to why their claim for injunctive or
declaratory relief is not now moot.
also requested monetary relief. "A legitimate,
non-speculative claim for compensatory damages is not mooted
by a change in circumstances." Cobb v. U.S.
Dep't of Educ, 2006 WL 2671241, *3 (D. Minn. Sept.
18, 2006). Francis Howell and Janes argue that the only
allegations supporting a claim for monetary damages are that
Mathews-Williams might miss out an athletic scholarship if
not permitted to play in the few remaining
games. Plaintiffs do not disagree with this
characterization of their claim, which the Court finds to be
too speculative to withstand the unopposed motions to
dismiss. In Governor Wentworth Regional School Dist. v.
Hendrickson, 201 Fed.Appx. 7, 8-9 (1st Cir.
2006) (per curiam), the court dismissed an appeal challenging
on First Amendment grounds a student's suspension from
school. The parents' claim for damages based on a theory
that the suspension would adversely affect their son's
employment prospects was determined to be too speculative to
prevent the appeal from becoming moot on the student's
graduation. Id. See also Schell v. OSY USA, Inc.,
814 F.3d 1107, 1115 (10th Cir. 2016) (finding
claim for dama ges arising from allegations of hypothetical
future harm too speculative to save appeal from mootness);
CMR D.N. Corp. v. City of Philadelphia, 703 F.3d
612, 622 (3rd Cir. 2013) (noting that
"[c]laims for damages are retrospective in nature - they
compensate for past harm") (emphasis added);
Brown v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 169 Fed.Appx.
537, 541 (11th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (rejecting
as too speculative plaintiffs claim for damages based on
allegations that documents in her personnel file could
destroy her career). Cf. McFarlin, 980 F.2d at 1210
(student's claim for compensatory damages for civil
rights violated resulting from school board's banning her
from basketball team without providing her a hearing was not
rendered moot by her graduation).
for the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED that the amended motion to dismiss of
Missouri State High School Activities Association [ECF No.
21] and the motion to dismiss of Francis Howell North High
School and Michael Janes [ECF No. 26] are each GRANTED.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the remaining pending
motions are denied as ...