United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
JOSEPH A. AMES, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN RADIO RELAY LEAGUE INCORPORATED, et al., Defendants.
DARNELL JONES, II J.
case involves a state-law defamation claim brought by Joseph
Ames, a citizen of Pennsylvania, against American Radio Relay
League Incorporated (ARRL), a Connecticut corporation, and
Tom Gallagher, Rick Roderick, and Dr. James Boehner (each an
out-of-state officer or director of ARRL, and together with
ARRL, the “Defendants”). Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8-11,
ECF No. 1.
before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the
Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Defs.' Mot.
Dismiss, ECF No. 10. This Court grants the Motion because the
plaintiff's pleadings, including documents referenced
therein and submitted by the parties, show on their face that
the allegedly defamatory statements are true and, thus,
cannot form the basis of a defamation claim as a matter of
deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, courts must “accept all
factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether,
under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff
may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “Threadbare recitals
of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Fowler v.
UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). This standard, which applies to all civil cases,
“asks for more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. “[A]ll civil complaints must now set out
sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is facially
plausible.” Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (internal
quotation marks omitted). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).
a general rule, the court may only consider the pleading
which is attacked by an FRCP 12(b)(6) motion in determining
its sufficiency.” Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate
Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002)
(quoting 62 Fed. Proc., Lawyers' Edition § 62:508).
“However, the court may consider documents which are
attached to or submitted with the complaint, as well
as . . . documents whose contents are alleged in the
complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but
which are not physically attached to the pleading[.]”
Id. (emphasis in original). “Documents that
the defendant attaches to the motion to dismiss are
considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in
the plaintiff's complaint and are central to the
claim[.]” Id. (emphasis in original).
ARRL is the national association for Amateur Radio in the
United States. Compl. ¶ 1, n.1. It is a non-profit
organization that organizes and trains volunteer amateur
radio operators to provide public service and emergency
communication. See About ARRL,
http://www.arrl.org/about-arrl (cited in the
Complaint at ¶ 1, n.1); see also Defs.' Br.
2, ECF No. 10-2. ARRL is governed by a 15-member board of
directors, each elected regionally by division. See ARRL
also Defs.' Br. 2. Each division is further divided
into sections, each of which periodically elects a section
manager. Section managers are responsible for administering
ARRL's volunteer field organization programs. See The
ARRL Field Organization Structure,
also Defs.' Br. 2-3.
National Traffic System (“NTS”) is one of
ARRL's public-service field organization programs. Compl.
¶ 1, n.1. The NTS is divided into three areas: Eastern,
Central and Pacific. Id. Plaintiff Ames does not
explicitly allege his relationship to AARL, but the Complaint
presumes he is a volunteer member who served as Eastern
Pennsylvania section manager and NTS Eastern Area chair.
Id. ¶ 1.
his tenure as section manager and area chair, Ames engaged in
direct communications with representatives of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Id. ¶¶
19-20, 23-25, 31-35, and Exs. A, F, G, and H. On or
around June 20, 2016, ARRL sent Ames a letter informing him
that he was being removed from his leadership roles for
communicating directly with FEMA and making commitments on
behalf of NTS and ARRL without authorization and in violation
of ARRL's policies. Compl. ¶ 15 and Ex. K. On June
22, ARRL published an article on its website announcing
Ames' termination and the reasons therefor (the
“Article”). Compl. ¶ 15, Ex. B. The Article
states, in relevant part:
Ames unilaterally and repeatedly communicated with officials
of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on behalf
of NTS, making commitments on behalf of ARRL without
authority and in violation of the rules and regulations of
the Field Organization. Those actions were contrary to the
terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between
FEMA and ARRL, which states clearly that ARRL Headquarters
staff will be the single point of contact between FEMA and
ARRL. . . .
In August 2015, then-ARRL CEO David Sumner . . . wrote to
Ames and instructed him that, unless otherwise authorized by
ARRL, any communication with FEMA with respect to NTS is to
be conducted through ARRL authorized representatives. ARRL
learned that Ames repeatedly acted contrary to Sumner's
directive, which led to the decision to cancel Ames's
Field Organization appointment and to declare the office of
the Section Manager for Eastern Pennsylvania vacant.
Id. ¶ 16, Ex. B (emphasis in original).
content of the Article was later reported on the ARRL audio
news broadcast, and was distributed via e-mail to global
subscribers of “The ARRL Letter, ” as well as
through the ARRL Special Bulletin ARLX007 and ARRL social
media outlets. Id. ¶ 17. Third party media
outlets, such as Amateur Radio Newsline, also reported the
Article's news on numerous radio stations. Id.
The plaintiff alleges that, as result of these publications,