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National Association for Advancement of Colored People, Inc. v. City of Myrtle Beach

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

May 22, 2019

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, INC., by and through its Myrtle Beach Branch, SIMUEL JONES, LESLIE STEVENSON, CEDRIC STEVENSON, HARRY BRIGGS, NOVICE BRIGGS, KENNETH COLEMAN, TYRONE KINARD, and WILLIAM LASSITER Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF MYRTLE BEACH, a municipal corporation within the State of South Carolina, and CITY OF MYRTLE BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT, a department of the City of Myrtle Beach, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Inc. (the NAACP), Simuel Jones, Leslie Stevenson, Cedric Stevenson, Harry Briggs, Novice Briggs, Kenneth Coleman, Tyrone Kinard, and William Lassiter (collectively, Plaintiffs). They filed this lawsuit against Defendants City of Myrtle Beach and the City of Myrtle Beach Police Department (collectively, Defendants) complaining of violations of: (Count 1) 42 U.S.C. § 1981, (Count 2) their First Amendment Rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (Count 3) their Fourteenth Amendment Rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (Count 4) their rights under the Dormant Commerce Clause, and (Count 5) Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. Having carefully considered the motion, the response and amended response, the replies, the record, and the relevant law, the Court is of the opinion the motion should be denied.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. Factual History

         “Each year, during the month of May, hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from around the country gather in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area for each of two separate motorcycle rallies.” Amended Complaint ¶ 1. “In the middle of the month, motorcycle enthusiasts gather for the Myrtle Beach Bike Week Spring Rally (Harley Week).” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “The vast majority of the Harley Week participants are white . . . . Two weeks later, over the Memorial Day weekend, motorcycle enthusiasts gather for Atlantic Beach Bikefest (Black Bike Week).” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “The vast majority of Black Bike Week visitors are African American, ” and according to Plaintiffs, “the event historically has been met with opposition and resistance from the City of Myrtle Beach and many local businesses.” Id.

         Plaintiffs complain “[t]he hostility toward Black Bike Week has led to a number of restrictive governmental policies that were first challenged . . . in an action filed in this Court in 2003.” Id. ¶ 2. “That suit alleged that the City of Myrtle Beach imposed an unequal and unjustified traffic plan during Black Bike Week and that the plan was motivated by racial discrimination, interfered with the rally, and discouraged participation.” Id.

         “The plaintiffs in that case argued that Black Bike Week should be treated the same as Harley Week.” Id. “United States District Court Judge Terry Wooten found that the differences in the traffic plans between Black Bike Week and Harley Week were likely motivated by race and therefore likely unconstitutional.” Id.

         “Judge Wooten granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered the City to implement similar traffic plans for the two events.” Id. Thereafter, the Fourth Circuit stayed Judge Wooten's Order. Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion, Exhibit 4. “The parties in that action ultimately settled the case with the City agreeing to a consent order that required the City to maintain similar operations plans for Black Bike Week and Harley Week for the following five years.” Amended Complaint ¶ 2. That agreement ended on July 31, 2010.

         “From 1999 until 2010[, ] traffic . . . flowed one way south on Ocean Boulevard during Memorial Day Weekend.” Amy Prock (Prock) Affidavit ¶ 2. “In 2011, the City chose to allow traffic on Ocean Boulevard to flow in both directions during Memorial Day Weekend.” Id.

         “Public safety issues and traffic issues began to increase with two way traffic along Ocean Boulevard.” Id. “In 2013, members of the Myrtle Beach Police Department[, ] together with other law enforcement agencies[, ] approached the City Manager for the City of Myrtle Beach and requested the City return to one way traffic for [M]emorial Day Weekend.” Id. “Their request was denied.” Id.

         Prock attests “[i]n 2013, public safety issues and traffic issues continued to increase.” Id. ¶ 3. “In 2014, nine shooting incidents[, ] including three homicides[, ] occurred during Memorial Day Weekend in the areas where Ocean Boulevard is located.” Id.

         “After the problems occurred [during] Memorial Day Weekend 2014, an association of city mayors and Horry County leaders[, ] known as[] Coastal Alliance, formed a . . . Task Force to address the public safety problems arising during Memorial Day Weekend.” Id. ¶ 5. “The City of Myrtle Beach, the Myrtle Beach Police Department and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce held a summit of public safety officials to focus on special events and problems and issues similar to the ones that arose in Myrtle Beach on Memorial [Day] Weekend.” Id.

         “The consensus of the summit was that to improve public safety, local governments had to keep pedestrians and vehicular traffic moving at all times.” Id. “The public safety officers with experience in events such as Memorial Day Weekend in the City recommended using a traffic chute to keep vehicular traffic moving during peak limes of traffic.” Id.

         “During the planning sessions for the . . . Task Force[, ] several traffic loops were proposed by different members of the [T]ask [F]orce.” Id. ¶ 6. “The City of Myrtle Beach proposed a traffic loop that was rejected by the [T]ask [F]orce.” Id. “Eventually, a traffic loop that was acceptable to all members of the . . . Task Force was chosen by the . . . Task Force and put in operation.” Id.

         “The traffic loop runs in the City of Myrtle Beach on roads controlled by the City and it runs for approximately [seventeen] miles on roads controlled by [the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT)].” Id. ¶ 7. “The traffic loop is put into operation on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights of Memorial Day Weekend between the hours of 10:00 [PM] and 2:00 [AM].” Id.

         “The traffic loop[, ] together with limited ingress and egress[, ] annually receives written approval from the [SCDOT, ] which is ultimately responsible for the use of all state roads.” Id. “Under the current . . . Task Force plan, the City of Myrtle Beach can close the traffic loop early if it is no longer needed.” Id. ¶ 8.

         B. Procedural History

         This is the second motion for a preliminary injunction Plaintiffs have filed in this lawsuit. In their initial motion, “Plaintiffs sought an order requiring [Defendants] to maintain a substantially similar traffic plan during the 2018 Black Bike Week as the one it maintains during Harley Week.” Plaintiffs' Motion 18. Judge Marvin Quattlebaum denied their motion. NAACP v. City of Myrtle Beach, No. 4:18-CV-00554, 2018 WL 2332018 (D.S.C. May 23, 2018).

         This motion for a preliminary injunction is more limited than the first. In the present motion, Plaintiffs seek an Order from this Court directing Defendants suspend operation of the traffic loop during the 2019 Black Bike Week. Here, Plaintiffs do not challenge the other restrictions on Black Bike Week alleged in their amended complaint.

         The Court has been fully briefed on all the relevant issues and is thus prepared to rule on the motion in accordance with the standards it details below.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Factors to Consider

          “[P]reliminary injunctions are intended to meet exigent circumstances[.]” Ideal Toy Corp. v. Plawner Toy Mfg. Corp., 685 F.2d 78, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). It “is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008). “[T]he party seeking the injunction must prove his own case and adduce the requisite proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, of the conditions and circumstances upon which he bases the right to and necessity for injunctive relief.” Citizens Concerned for Separation of Church & State v. City of Denver, 628 F.2d 1289, 1299 (10th Cir. 1980).

         A preliminary injunction should issue only when the plaintiffs can “[1] establish that [they are] likely to succeed on the merits, [2] that [they are] likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, [3] that the balance of equities tips in [their] favor, and [4] that an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter, 555 U.S. at 20. The burden is on the party seeking injunctive relief to show it is entitled to the relief, not the burden of the other party to show the movant is not entitled. Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Bhd. of Teamsters, 415 U.S. 423, 443 (1974).

         “[A]ll four requirements must be satisfied.” Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 575 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2009). Thus, even a strong showing of likely success on the merits cannot compensate for failure to show likely injury. Winter, 555 U.S. at 21-22. And, irreparable injury alone is insufficient to support equitable relief. See Id. at 23 (holding irreparable injury was likely to occur, but holding an injunction was improper because of the burden on the government and impact on public interest). In other words, “[a] preliminary injunction shall be granted only if the moving party clearly establishes entitlement.” Di Biase v. SPX Corp., 872 F.3d 224, 230 (4th Cir. 2017).

         “Given [the] limited purpose [of a preliminary injunction], and given the haste that is often necessary . . ., a preliminary injunction is customarily granted on the basis of procedures that are less formal and evidence that is less complete than in a trial on the merits.” Univ. of Tex. v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 395 (1981). “Because preliminary injunction proceedings are informal ones designed to prevent irreparable harm before a later trial governed by the full rigor of usual evidentiary standards, district courts may look to, and indeed in appropriate circumstances rely on, hearsay or other inadmissible evidence when deciding whether a preliminary injunction is warranted.” G.G. ex rel. Grimm v. Gloucester Cty. Sch. Bd., 822 F.3d 709, 725-26 (4th Cir. 2016), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 137 S.Ct. 1239 (2017).

         B. Prohibitory or Mandatory

         “A preliminary injunction may be characterized as being either prohibitory or mandatory.” League of Women Voters of N. C. v. North Carolina, 769 F.3d 224, 235 (4th Cir. 2014). “Whereas mandatory injunctions alter the status quo [generally by requiring the non-movant to do something], prohibitory injunctions aim to maintain the status quo and prevent irreparable harm while a lawsuit remains pending.” Id. at 236 (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Fourth Circuit has “defined the status quo for this purpose to be the last uncontested status between the parties which preceded the controversy.” Id. (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “Mandatory preliminary injunctive relief in any circumstance is disfavored, and warranted only in the most extraordinary circumstances.” Taylor v. Freeman, 34 F.3d 266, 270 n.2 (4th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Or, put differently, “It is fundamental that mandatory injunctive relief should be granted only under compelling circumstances inasmuch as it is a harsh remedial process not favored by the courts.” Citizens Concerned for Separation of Church & State, 628 F.2d at 1299.

         The Fourth Circuit has stated, “Because preliminary injunctions are extraordinary remedies involving the exercise of very far-reaching power, [it] should be particularly exacting in its use of the abuse of discretion standard when it reviews an order granting a preliminary injunction.” Pashby v. Delia, 709 F.3d 307, 319 (4th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration marks omitted). “Furthermore, when the preliminary injunction is mandatory rather than prohibitory in nature, [the Fourth ...


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