In a definitive and consequential ruling, the Honorable Ebony Scott in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Civil Division, issued a May 10 factual “Summary Judgment” in favor of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).
In an official notice sent out on June 26 to each member publisher of the NNPA, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. president, and CEO of the NNPA, confirmed, “In the matters of Dorothy R. Leavell v. NNPA, Amelia Ashley-Ward v. NNPA, and Carol Geary v. NNPA, the courts in the District of Columbia have now ruled in favor of the NNPA.”
The NNPA is the national trade association of the Black Press of America representing over 240 African American-owned newspapers and multimedia companies throughout the United States.
“Finally, after four years of extended and financially costly, frivolous lawsuits against the NNPA, we have good news for the NNPA upon winning these significant legal victories,” Chavis resoundingly attested. “The NNPA will continue to work diligently to ensure that the voting rights of all our member publishers are protected from any future effort to subvert the overall interests of the membership of the NNPA.”
Leavell, Ashley-Ward, and Geary who are members of the NNPA, disagreed with the outcome of the 2019 NNPA national elections and sued the NNPA, in part, to contest the results of the 2019 NNPA Board Elections.
In 2019, the membership of the NNPA duly elected Karen Carter Richards, publisher of the Houston Forward Times, as the new NNPA Chair.
Leavell was defeated by Richards for Chair of the NNPA.
“As much as I would like to say that I’m excited about this ruling I’m not
] this should have never happened to our esteemed organization or the wonderful publishers who make up this important entity,” Richards stated.
“This entire ordeal has been a stain on this organization, led by three individuals who refused to accept the will of the qualified vote of our publishers.”
“Not only did we have to fight through the COVID-19 pandemic and other changes in the market, but we also had to fight against the frivolous actions of three of our member publishers.
“Now, thankfully after four years, we can put this unjustified action behind us and move forward for the betterment of our organization and continue to do what’s right for the NNPA.”
During the past four years, however, the NNPA continued to make substantial progress even in the face of the continued civil litigation.
“We are pleased with the judge’s decision, and it’s been a long time coming,” NNPA General Counsel Attorney A. Scott Bolden stated.
“There was never any substance to the plaintiffs’ allegations. Unfortunately, it took four years and a lot of legal expenses to prove that there was nothing there.”
Bolden said Judge Scott also issued a separate order of sanctions – the second during the case – “for some of the conduct of the plaintiffs and their counsel.”
“This isn’t the first time the plaintiffs and their lawyers were sanctioned,” Bolden asserted. “It is fortunate that we were able to emerge victorious.”
Bolden said many lessons were learned about how the lawsuit was brought and how the plaintiffs and prior judges handled it.
“Going forward, we’re looking forward to working with NNPA members and the board members to prevent any future lawsuits against the organization by amending the NNPA Bylaws to ensure that any disputes will require mediation or arbitration,” Bolden said.
He said the two avenues are far less expensive than civil litigation.
Bolden also noted that Carole Geary, publisher of the Milwaukee Courier, lost her lawsuit against the NNPA in 2022, appealed the defeat, and lost again.
“Thanks to our outstanding legal team, our leadership, and Dr. Benjamin Chavis, our president/CEO for pressing forward as we endured such an unfortunate and costly situation,” Richards added.
The NNPA is now preparing to celebrate the 196-year anniversary of the Black Press of America at its 2023 Annual National Convention in Nashville, TN, June 28-July 1.
This article was originally published by the NNPA.
*These documents reflect a failed appeal by Carole Geary against the NNPA in 2022. These files were obtained through public record from the D.C. Court of Appeals.