Schnader Obtains Significant Appellate Victory for New Jersey Institute of TechnologyOn May 17, 2016 by Schnader in Appellate
Schnader obtained a significant appellate victory on May 12 in a long-standing case. Nancy Winkelman handled the appeal. The story begins in 2008, when the New Jersey Institute of Technology reached out to Dennis Suplee. NJIT was having issues with the leadership of its former alumni association, which had become not just inactive and ineffective, but also was seeking to undermine some important University initiatives. NJIT sought Dennis Suplee’s help because it was aware of his success in litigation he had handled for Villanova when it sought to disaffiliate from its problematic athletic booster club.
Following the Villanova model, NJIT sent a disaffiliation letter to its alumni association. In response, the association sued in NJ state court, asserting breach of contract, trademark, and other claims, and seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the disaffiliation. Dennis successfully defeated the preliminary injunction, with our late partner John Armstrong, and Nancy Winkelman assisting.
John then proceeded to try the case, doing a masterful job, with 37 trial days over the course of almost 3 years. Sadly, John passed away at the close of trial, as post-trial proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law were coming due. Nancy jumped back in and assisted with that stage of the case. The trial court ultimately issued a 46-page opinion, finding in NJIT’s favor on every issue.
The Association appealed. On May 12, the NJ Appellate Division issued an opinion resoundingly affirming the trial court; the appellate court held that NJIT was entitled to disaffiliate from the former association, that it had not breached any contract with the former association, had not violated the former association’s trademark rights, and had not violated its First Amendment rights.