Son of Right-Wing Icon Fights Nonprofit’s Shakeup

ST. LOUIS (CN) – The son of conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly asked the Eighth Circuit on Tuesday morning to reinstate certain bylaws and three directors of her organization Eagle Forum, including himself, who were ousted in what was characterized as a hostile takeover of the right-wing interest group.

Andrew Schlafly and two other members were ousted during a special Eagle Forum meeting on Jan. 28, 2017. He claims the meeting was invalid because it did not allow him to vote by proxy and it did not include information about the board’s intention to change Eagle Forum’s bylaws.

The shakeup came amid a power struggle during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Schlafly, who is in private practice in New Jersey, represented himself in Tuesday’s Eighth Circuit hearing in St. Louis.

Eagle Forum’s attorneys argued that Schlafly lacks jurisdiction because he failed to state a claim. They contend the group’s actions were lawful under its bylaws and state law in Illinois, where it is based.

In April, U.S. District Judge John Ross in Missouri dismissed Schlafly’s complaint. He then appealed to the Eighth Circuit.

Eagle Forum directors became divided over the late Phyllis Schlafly’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president during the 2016 campaign. In March 2016, just six months before she passed away, Phyllis Schlafly appeared at a Trump rally in St. Louis and told a raucous standing-room only crowd at Peabody Opera House, “He’s a real conservative and I ask you to support him.”

The most pro-Trump members of the group formed Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles, while the others retained the Eagle Forum name. 

Schlafly’s son argued that even though Eagle Forum members were given 22 days’ notice of the January 2017 meeting, two more than required by Illinois state law, the notice lacked the substance required by Roberts’ Rules of Order for an irregular meeting.

“It says nothing about changing the bylaws and it says nothing about changing directors,” Schlafly argued before the three-judge panel.  

Patrick Bousquet, an attorney for the Eagle Forum, defended the moves.

Bousquet, of Smith Amundsen in St. Louis, said the organization’s members do not get to attend board meetings nor do they have right to Eagle Forum’s financial information. He also argued that the organization’s bylaws only give the directors, not the members, the power to appoint or remove a director.

When questioned about the practice by the Eighth Circuit panel, Bousquet responded, “If you’re complying with Illinois law, majority rules. In this case, you had six members who voted them out, which they can do providing that they gave 20 days’ notice.”

Bousquet also told the court that Schlafly had the opportunity to attend the January 2017 meeting, but didn’t. He refuted Schlafly’s proxy argument, saying that Eagle Forum bylaws were clear that members can vote by proxy, but directors can’t.

The panel was comprised of U.S. Circuit Judges Lavenski Smith, Roger Wollman and Steven Grasz, all appointees of Republican presidents.

It is unclear when the Eighth Circuit will issue a decision in the case.

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