WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge ruled against a class of psychologists who claimed the American Psychological Association extracted millions of dollars a year from its members for a separate lobbying group by leading them to believe the payment was mandatory.
“The crux of plaintiffs’ claim is that they were misled to believe that payment of the special assessment was required for membership in the APA, when in fact it was not,” stated U.S. District Judge John Bates.
Named plaintiff Ellen Levine, of Hayward, Calif., sued the APA and its affiliated lobbying group the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) in 2010, claiming that the APA took $6 million a year from its members through the special assessment. The class claimed the fee – about $140 a year, according to Levine – was forced on them as “a mandatory practice assessment,” meant to raise money for lobbying.
Judge Bates dismissed the claims, stating that the unjust enrichment argument is invalid because a contract exists between the APA and its members.
“The dues statements reminded members of their obligations or opportunities to contribute to the APA, but the membership contract actually explained which dues were required and the bases upon which membership could be terminated,” stated the judge. “Even assuming … that the dues statements were intentionally misleading, plaintiffs were fully capable of noting the discrepancy between the statements and the membership contracts – as, indeed, it appears that they eventually did – to determine which dues were truly mandatory.”
The class includes “all APA members in the United States who paid as part of their annual dues a charge for membership” in the APAPO.
Judge Bates accepted the association’s motion to dismiss.