UPDATE: Teachers Union v. RI Mom Nicole Solas – Motion for TRO Withdrawn By Union During Court Hearing
Rhode Island branches of the National Education Association seek TRO against school district turning over Critical Race records requested by Solas and her husband.
This morning at 10:30 a.m. is the hearing in Rhode Island Superior Court before Associate Justice Linda Rekas Sloan on the motion of the National Education Association Rhode Island and NEA-South Kingstown (RI) for a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting the South Kingstown School District and School Committee from releasing records requested by local mom Nicole Solas and her husband Adam Hartman. NEA objects, among other things, to records being released that would reveal which teachers are teaching Critical Race Theory and interactions with the union regarding CRT.
UPDATES AT BOTTOM OF POST
I will cover the hearing “live” — meaning I’ll update as it goes and if a decision is made from the bench. I’m not a stenographer though, so there will be a lot of paraphrasing and summarizing. I’ll try to type verbatim any key soundbites and rulings.
For background on the lawsuit and what might happen, see these prior posts:
- Teachers Union Sues Mom Nicole Solas To Prevent School District From Releasing Critical Race Teaching Records
- RI Teachers Union Seeks Emergency Injunction Preventing Release of CRT Records To Mom Nicole Solas (Update)
- Unions May Have Major Legal Problem In Lawsuit Against RI Mom Nicole Solas Over Public Records Of Critical Race Teaching
- Teachers Unions Exposed To Anti-SLAPP Punitive Claim For Suing Mom Nicole Solas Over Critical Race Records
- Court Filing: RI Mother Nicole Solas Demands “Compensatory and Punitive Damages” Against Teachers Unions Under Anti-SLAPP Statute
- Teachers Union and School District Appear To Be Colluding Against RI Mom Nicole Solas In Lawsuit
The key issue today is likely to be whether the unions have “standing” to sue since the only parties to the public records process are the requester (Solas/Hartman) and the agency (school district and committee). Under clear RI Supreme Court precedent, outsiders (in the position of the unions here) are not permitted to interfere in the public records process by seeking an injunction against document release. The unions here claim that the district and committee may release documents not covered by the public records law, but those entities have denied that allegation. Regardless, such a scenario was covered in prior RI Supreme Court cases and rejected on standing grounds.
UPDATES (MOST RECENT AT TOP)
WAJ analysis — The TRO had no basis. It was speculative and contrary to how we all knew the school district handles public records requests. It was withdrawn to avoid the court denying the motion. But that doesn’t end it. The case continues, and the baseless motion is just more potential evidence of union bad faith under the anti-SLAPP statute.
Judge – Motion for TRO withdrawn by plaintiffs, nothing more for me to decide today.
NEA Atty – given representations of school department will “not press” the motion
Judge – appears may not need relief requested. Not today deciding dispositive (summary judgment) motion, that’s not on for today. not prepared to make that decision today. Where does that leave us on request for hearing that is on for today?
Solas Atty – important to start at the legal beginning. crystal clear from case law that third parties do not have standing, particularly New England gas. Union relief sought entirely foreclosed under case law. It appears that union has backed off public record statute as basis for case and relies on declaratory judgment act. but under declaratory judgment act as pleaded, union relies on public records statute. Declaratory judgment act doesn’t confer rights, has to be another basis for relief, resolved by RI Supreme Court in NE Gas case. McKenna v. Williams, plaintiff must have independent standing.Without standing or any other legal basis for standing, TRO and Complaint should be released. Defendants ask for dismissal of lawsuit, not dismissal of Defendants as parties. Have request for relief pending, anti-SLAPP statute, and to assess legal fees and damages.
School Atty – can confirm as to pending requests. only request paid for is 47 (and 59) – Superintendent emails – have been redacted in accordance with exemptions under statute.
NEA Atty – school department has not filed response to motion. Judge raised issue in Friday (morning?) conference as to what was happening this week to necessitate emergency relief. In later Friday afternoon conference, raised issue of what happening this week. From union perspective, if none of the particular requests that form the basis of the union’s lawsuit are paid for and will be produced this week or next week, other than no. 47, and if school determines that some requests are subject to exemptions, and if 47 heavily redacted, then no emergency relief needed. that doesn’t mean the underlying issues still need to be reviewed. Since we talked on Friday defendants have filed motion for summary judgment, also have pled Rule 12b6, failure to state a claim. Want to be on record that the only reason the union has joined Solas and husband is that her legal opinion required to name them as indispensible parties. If defendants feel shouldn’t be part of lawsuit, would gladly dismiss them from case. “That was important for me to say.”
NEA Atty – our roll extends beyond negotiating contract. whenever school department makes changes to terms and conditions of employment, NEA has right to get involved. have a situation where teacher rights at issue. when dispute arose between school dept and requester, normally wouldn’t care but only because in this unique situation dispute became public. particular requests directed at individual teacher emails, personal records, etc. Put NEA in middle of dispute between school department and third parties, certain records involving teacher rights, collective bargaining rights. Request 47 in process and that groups of documents may contain personally identifiable information about teachers. Plus many upcoming requests that “clearly on their face problematic” regarding disciplinary etc.
Judge – suggest put on the record what discussed late Friday after receipt of response memo from plaintiff. that if school confirmed certain things on the record, might resolve motion. [my note – in response union said that might withdraw motion if school confirmed that it would apply public records exemptions against releasing personal records]
Judge – ground rules. asks attys to state who is speaking so media knows who is speaking
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