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‘House of Pain’ Gym Prevents Restraining Order by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page for Breaking Lockdown – ‘Removes’Case to Federal Court – Stands Up for Individual Rights

Posted on 19 May 2020

Guest post by Richard Blaine

The saga of the gymnasium House of Pain (HOP) versus the St. Louis County Executive Sam Page continues.   (See here and here.) 

The House of Pain (“HOP”) was forced to re-open prior to the end of St. Louis County Executive Same Page’s “stay at home order” and Page responded by filing a lawsuit against HOP, seeking not only a restraining order to shut them down, but also monetary sanctions.  

As you’ve read [here], St. Louis County’s best and brightest lawyers made a boneheaded error and failed to sue the correct business.  This allowed HOP to file a motion to dismiss this past Friday.  The motion was denied, and the County was granted leave to file an Amended Petition (in complete shame, because if they had done literally two minutes of investigation, they would have discovered the correct legal entity).  The hearing on the County’s restraining order should have occurred today, but HOP lawyer Chris McDonough removed the lawsuit out of St. Louis County Circuit Court (a State-Level Circuit Court) to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri – more commonly referred to as “MOED.”

Case Removal – A Basic Explanation of What’s Happening

To be able to file a lawsuit, a plaintiff (the party which initiates a suit) must have a cause of action – an accepted theory of why a court should give them a remedy for their problem.  These types of remedies can be based on ancient common law, newer common law, or state or federal causes of action created by legislative statute.

When a plaintiff files suit against a defendant in a state court, federal law permits the defendant to remove the case to federal court within thirty (30) days IF the case either: (a) raises a federal issue (i.e., a statutory cause of action); or (b-1) is brought with total diversity of the defendants, visavis the plaintiff – i.e., there is not a single defendant that is from the same state as the state of residence of the plaintiff, and (b-2) the monetary amount at stake in the suit is in excess of $75,000.  In this case, HOP removed on the basis of Diversity Jurisdiction, because HOP’s company is technically based in Florida.

An example of removal for diversity jurisdiction of the federal court would be a Texas plaintiff suing Peabody Energy for an amount in excess of $75,000.  Peabody is based in St. Louis, Missouri, and the amount sought exceeds $75,000, so there is total diversity, and Peabody could, at its sole discretion, opt to remove the case to federal court.  The catch for the defendant is it only has 30 days to remove the case, or else the power is lost (absent some nuanced circumstances).  Once the defendant makes the decision to remove, neither the plaintiff, nor the state court (absent nuanced problems) has any ability to stop the process.  In this case, HOP removed on the basis of Diversity Jurisdiction.

HOP likely removed the case because the judge in its case – Judge Heggie – is a former lawyer for the Missouri Democratic Party.  But removing the case suggests that HOP is either buying some time (not much), or else that it intends to take the fight all the way to SCOTUS.  Had they remained in State Court, they could have had the benefit of seeking a resolution at the Missouri Supreme Court, and using Missouri’s own Constitution, which may or may not have proved more favorable.  There may have been a marginally better chance of winning at the state supreme court level but HOP chose the federal venue.

The immediate problem for HOP is they will face a group of federal judges in MOED, who have a history of support for the minimization of individual rights.  MOED is part of the 8th Circuit.

HOP will certainly lose at the Federal District Court level, and it’s more than likely HOP will lose at the 8th Circuit level as well, should they appeal.  The MOED district court is a rubber stamp for governmental power – ditto that for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

HOP may lose the TRO, meaning they will be immediately shut down – absent intervention from the public, by way of protests.  By the time this makes its way to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, Tyrant Page will likely have fully re-opened the County, and the County will argue, on appeal, that the issue is moot, and therefore not proper for adjudication.

At that point, probably 3 weeks from now, HOP will have a compelling argument, though.  HOP will be able to argue, similar to Jane Roe, in Roe v. Wade, that the issue is likely to come up again.  For this reason, HOP can argue that it needs the 8th Circuit to rule upon the matter, because St. Louis County may do the same thing a few months from now.

The 8th Circuit will likely punt on the issue, and deny the appeal on the grounds of mootness.  HOP’s only shot at winning this in the courts is to leverage a “conservative” majority.  But, color me skeptical.

HOP’s best chance of making a difference, is to lead by example – to lead a mass of protesters and deny St. Louis County Police the ability to shut down the gym.

We live in a country which is no longer free.  Oligarchs – in business and in the government – control our lives and will not let us win legitimately.  Civil disobedience, led by courageous people in unique situations – such as House of Pain – are the only means by which WE THE PEOPLE, as opposed to billionaire plutocrats and business and governmental oligarchs, can effect change.  They’ve taken everything else from us.

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