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Amicus Briefs

Starbucks Corporation v. McKinney

The National Labor Relations Board has deprived Starbucks of property without due process of law via an administrative enforcement proceeding, utilizing a preliminary injunction it obtained without even establishing that the company likely broke the law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the district court injunction per a textually baseless doctrine that allows an employer to be punished based on legal and factual allegations falling far short of meeting the ordinary preliminary injunction standard. The New Civil Liberties Alliance filed an amicus curiae brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Starbucks Corp. v. McKinney case, reverse the Sixth Circuit’s error, and overturn the injunction.

The Supreme Court has made clear, in a variety of statutory contexts, that federal courts may not issue preliminary injunctions unless the party seeking the injunction has met four requirements. It must establish that: (1) it is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) it would suffer irreparable injury absent an injunction; (3) the balance of equities favors an injunction; and (4) an injunction serves the public interest. Yet, five federal circuit courts, including the Sixth Circuit, apply a far more relaxed standard when NLRB seeks a preliminary injunction against an employer. They uphold an injunction if NLRB’s claims are not frivolous—even if they are more likely than not meritless—and where it serves NLRB’s remedial powers, even if it inflicts disproportionate burdens on the employer.

The National Labor Relations Act does not support this practice, and it defies the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that no property shall be taken without due process of law. Under the Sixth Circuit’s approach, NLRB can obtain a punitive injunction forcing Starbucks to retain and pay unwanted employees for an indefinite period—without the government having to prove even a likely violation of law.

Mark Chenoweth
President and Chief Legal Officer
Sheng Li
Litigation Counsel
Greg Dolin
Senior Litigation Counsel

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