Court Denies Motion for TRO in Athlete Eligibility Case

Feb 1, 2008

A federal judge from the Northern District of Mississippi has denied a student-athlete’s motion for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed him to compete on the varsity basketball team at his high school, finding that he failed to show either a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his claims or that the threatened injury is irreparable.
Plaintiff Jeremy Newsome transferred from an Oklahoma school after his junior year to Nettleton High School. Defendant Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) concluded that he was ineligible to play after finding that he “was not bona fide and was for athletic reasons. Complicating the matter, Jeremy has been determined to have learning disabilities and the Nettleton School District has provided him with an Individual Education Plan pursuant to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400, et seq., and Sections 37-23-133, et seq. of the Mississippi Code.”
On November 13, 2007, the plaintiffs filed their complaint, asserting claims under the IDEA, ADA, and U.S. Constitution, and seeking injunctive relief to compel the defendants to permit Jeremy to play basketball at Nettleton High School. The court has set the Plaintiffs’ contemporaneously filed motion for preliminary injunctive relief for hearing on January 14, 2008. On November 27, 2007, the Plaintiffs filed the present motion seeking a TRO to compel the defendants to permit Jeremy to immediately play varsity basketball at Nettleton High School.
The court noted that in order to grant a TRO, the court must apply the standard set forth by the Fifth Circuit in Canal Authority of Florida v. Callaway, 489 F.2d 567, 572 (5th Cir. 1974). “Pursuant to Canal Authority, the plaintiffs in this matter have the burden of demonstrating four specific criteria:
(1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits;
(2) a substantial threat that the Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law;
(3) that the threatened injury to the Plaintiffs outweighs any damage that the Defendants might suffer; and
(4) that granting the order will not disserve the public interest.
“It is incumbent upon the movant to demonstrate all four factors, and the failure to demonstrate any one of the four is sufficient for the court to deny the issuance of the temporary restraining order. Allied Mktg. Group, Inc. v. CDL Mktg., Inc., 878 F.2d 806, 809 (5th Cir. 1989).”
The court began its discussion by noting that “the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims. The IDEA, the Act which forms the underlying basis of the plaintiffs’ claims, requires states to establish ‘procedural safeguards’ or administrative remedies that must be exhausted prior to the filing of a civil action. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415; Sandifer v. Lumberton Public Sch. Dist., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51382, 2007 WL 2071799 (S.D. Miss. July 16, 2007).
“Further, it is well-established that a complaint arising under the IDEA is not a justifiable controversy until the plaintiffs ‘have exhausted their administrative remedies under the IDEA or proved that exhaustion would be futile or inadequate.’ Marc v. North East Ind. Sch. Dist., 455 F. Supp. 2d 577, 591-92 (W.D. Tex. 2006); Gardner v. School Bd. of Caddo Parish, 958 F.2d 108, 112 (5th Cir. 1992). While claims under the IDEA do not form the sole basis of the plaintiffs’ claim for relief in this case, it has been held that the mandatory exhaustion requirement of the IDEA cannot be circumvented even when a plaintiff purports to cast his claims as Constitutional, under the ADA, or as an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 predicated on the IDEA. M.T.V. v. DeKalb County Sch. Dist., 446 F.3d 1153, 1158 (11th Cir. 2006); W.B. v. Matula, 67 F.3d 484, 495 (3rd Cir. 1995); Marc, 455 F. Supp. 2d at 592.”
The court went on to write that the U. S. Supreme Court’s pronouncement that “[t]he basis for injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable injury and the inadequacy of legal remedies. Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 312, 102 S. Ct. 1798, 1803, 72 L. Ed. 2d 91 (1982).”
The court added that the plaintiffs assert that if Jeremy cannot play basketball his senior year, his basketball skills and the likelihood of his being offered a scholarship and an NBA contract will diminish.
“No other specific reasons, other than an assertion that the failure of the Defendants to permit Jeremy to play basketball is having an adverse effect upon his mental health, are set forth in the plaintiffs’ motion for a TRO. The court finds, therefore, that the Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that they will suffer irreparable injury, as is required before a temporary restraining order can be granted. See Canal Authority, 489 F.2d at 572.”
Jeremy Newsome et al. v. Mississippi High School Activities Association, INC. et al., N.D. Miss.; No. 1:07CV293-D-D, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88478; 11/30/07
Attorneys of Record: For Jeremy Newsome, by his mother and next friend, Lyndia Traylor, Lyndia Traylor, Individually, Plaintiffs: Jim D. Waide, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, WAIDE & ASSOCIATES, PA, Tupelo, MS.
For Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc., Defendant: Kathryn R. Gilchrist, ADAMS AND REESE – Jackson, Jackson, MS.


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