Virgie Lee Valley v. Rapides Prsh Sch Bd ( 1997 )


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  •                                              REVISED
                          IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
                                   FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
    
    
    
                                                No. 96-30441
    
    
    
    VIRGIE LEE VALLEY; ET AL.,
    
                                                                                                  Plaintiffs,
    
                                                     versus
    
    RAPIDES PARISH SCHOOL BOARD; SYLVIA PEARSON;
    WALTER GATLIN; HERBERT DIXON; KENNETH DOYLE;
    STANLEY MILLER; RODESA METOYER, in their official capacities,
    
                                                                                   Defendants-Appellants,
    
                                                     versus
    
    BETTY J. COX,
                                                                                      Intervenor-Appellee.
    
    
                                Appeal from the United States District Court
                                   for the Western District of Louisiana
    
                                                 July 24, 1997
    
    Before DUHÉ, BENAVIDES and STEWART, Circuit Judges.
    CARL E. STEWART, Circuit Judge:
    
            Appellants appeal the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction reinstating appellee Dr.
    
    Betty Cox (“Cox”) as Rapides Parish School Superintendent. Appellants voted to terminate Cox
    
    after conducting a fifty-five-hour hearing in which they determined that Cox was unfit to continue as
    
    superintendent. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the grant of the preliminary injunction.
    
                                              BACKGROUND
    
            Cox was permitted by the district court to intervene in this longstanding school desegregation
    
    case in order to contest the constitutionality of her employment termination.                No school
    desegregation issues are implicated by this appeal, indeed our sole focus on review is the employment
    
    relationship between a parish school superintendent and the school board employer.             On March
    
    7, 1994, Cox, Intervenor-Appellee, was appointed as the Superintendent of Schools for Rapides
    
    Parish by the Rapides Parish School Board (the “Board”). In her position, Cox was responsible for
    
    an entire school system with approximately 25,000 students, 3,000 employees, and an annual budget
    
    of about $90,000,000.00. In her new position, Cox immediately began to institute changes
    
    concerning patronage hiring by Board members, self-dealing, and abusive use of a wide area
    
    telephone service (“WATS”) phone line.
    
            A year after her appointment, on March 7, 1995, by a vote of six to three, the Board
    
    suspended Cox with pay pending an investigation of allegations concerning her performance. Cox
    
    did not receive prior notice of the charges or a separate hearing. On March 13, 1995, Cox filed a
    
    motion to intervene and an intervention complaint in the school desegregation case against the Board
    
    and the six members of the Board who had voted to suspend her. The complaint alleged violation
    
    of Cox’s federally protected rights and sought redress under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
    
            The district court, Judge Nauman Scott, granted Cox’s motion and issued a temporary
    
    restraining order reinstating Cox pending a hearing on her request for preliminary and permanent
    
    injunctive relief. Subsequently, Judge Scott recused himself and the case was reassigned to Judge
    
    F.A. Little, Jr. Judge Little scheduled a hearing on Cox’s motion for a preliminary injunction and
    
    restricted the issue to whether the Board had violated Cox’s due process rights by not giving her prior
    
    notice of the allegations and a hearing. On April 21, 1995, Judge Little granted Cox’s request for a
    
    preliminary injunction.
    
            The Board and its six-member defendants appealed the ruling to this Court. The appellants
    
    argued that the district court erred in its ruling that Cox’s due process rights were violated by her
    
    suspension with pay pending investigation of the allegations against her and the district court erred
    
    by not addressing the qualified immunity defense raised by the Bo ard members in their individual
    
    capacities.
    
    
                                                      2
           While the appeal was pending before this Court, the Board proceeded with its investigation
    
    of the charges against Cox. A discharge hearing was scheduled for November 29, 1995. The hearing
    
    lasted fifty-five hours, over five days, and culminated in the termination of Cox on December 4, 1995,
    
    by a vote of six to three. On December 7, 1995, Cox filed an amended complaint seeking
    
    reinstatement of the temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief. The
    
    temporary restraining order was denied on December 14, 1995, and a hearing on the motion for
    
    preliminary injunction was scheduled for January 2, 1996.
    
           On February 29, 1996, the district court granted Cox’s request for preliminary injunctive
    
    relief, holding that Cox’s substantive due process rights to fair and impartial adjudicators at the
    
    discharge hearing were violated because four of the nine Board members (Kenneth Doyle, Walter
    
    Gatlin, Herbert Dixon, and Sylvia Pearson) were irreversibly biased against her. On April 10, 1996,
    
    the district court entered formal judgment granting Cox preliminary injunctive relief and reinstating
    
    her as superintendent. The injunction was issued only against the Board, not against the six members
    
    in their individual capacity. The Board and its six individually named members, however, filed a
    
    notice of appeal on April 19, 1996. Subsequently, this Court dismissed the previously pending appeal
    
    without “prejudice to the appellants’ right to raise, in any subsequent proceeding, the issues of
    
    qualified immunity and due process.”
    
           On June 10, 1996, the Board sought and was granted a motion for leave of court to raise
    
    unresolved issues from the previous appeal with this Court.
    
                                       STANDARD OF REVIEW
    
           We review the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction under an abuse of discretion
    
    standard. Hull v. Quitman County Bd. of Educ., 
    1 F.3d 1450
    , 1453 (5th Cir. 1993); Allied Mktg.
    
    Group, Inc. v. C.D.L. Mktg., Inc., 
    878 F.2d 806
    , 809 (5th Cir. 1989), app’l dec’d, 
    915 F.2d 1567
    
    (1990). The grant of injunctive relief is an extraordinary remedy which requires the movant to
    
    unequivocally show the need for its issuance. Allied, 878 F.2d at 809.
    
                                               DISCUSSION
    
    
                                                      3
            On appeal, the Board asserts several arguments related to the two injunctions granted by the
    
    district court. First, the Board argues that the district court abused its discretion when it granted Cox
    
    preliminary injunctive relief on February 29, 1996. Specifically, the Board argues that the district
    
    court erred in its conclusion that Cox carried her burden of proving that she had a substantial
    
    likelihood of success on the merits because (1) Co x waived her right to challenge the partiality of
    
    various Board members, (2) it was erroneous to conclude that Board members Doyle, Gatlin, Dixon
    
    and Pearson were irreversibly biased against Cox and should be recused, (3) the rule of necessity
    
    applies to the instant case, and (4) the district court failed to make sufficient findings of fact pursuant
    
    to FED. R. CIV. P. 52(a). The Board also argues that the district court erred in concluding that Cox
    
    had proven (1) a substantial threat of irreparable injury if the preliminary injunction was not issued,
    
    (2) the harm to her, if the injunction was denied, exceeded the hardship to the appellants, and (3) the
    
    public interest would not be undermined by issuance of the injunction.
    
            Second, the Board argues that the district court abused its discretion when it granted Cox
    
    preliminary injunctive relief on April 21, 1995. Specifically, the district court erred as a matter of law
    
    in concluding that temporary suspension with pay constituted deprivation of property interests. Also,
    
    the district court erred by disregarding the doctrine of qualified immunity.
    
            Cox, on the other hand, argues that the district court properly applied the standards for
    
    issuance of a preliminary injunction. Moreover, Cox argues that she did not waive her right to
    
    challenge the bias of her adjudicators, the rule of necessity is inapplicable to the instant case, t he
    
    district court’s findings o f fact are in compliance withFED. R. CIV. P. 52(a), and the issues of the
    
    April 21, 1995, appeal are moot.
    
            After considering the full extent of the Board’s arguments, we are left with the firm
    
    conclusion that only the Board’s arguments concerning the February 29, 1996 preliminary injunction
    
    
    
    
                                                        4
    warrant full discussion. We agree with Cox that the Board’s arguments regarding the 1995
    
    preliminary injunction are either moot or without merit.1
    
    I.       Did the District Court Abuse its Discretion When it Granted Preliminary Injunctive
             Relief to Superintendent Cox Against the Rapides Parish School Board on February
             29, 1996?
    
             Under well settled Fifth Circuit precedent, a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy
    
    that should not be granted unless the movant demonstrates by a clear showing: (1) a substantial
    
    likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat of irreparable harm if the injunction is not
    
    granted; (3) that the threatened injury outweighs any harm that may result from the injunction to the
    
    non-movant; and (4) that the injunction will not undermine the public interest. On appeal, a
    
    preliminary injunction order must not be disturbed unless grounded upon a clearly erroneous factual
    
    determination, an error of law, or an abuse of discretion. Roho Inc. v. Marquis, 
    902 F.2d 356
    , 358
    
    (5th Cir. 1990).
    
             A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits.
    
             To determine the likelihood of success on the merits, we look to the standards provided by
    
    the substantive law. See Mississippi Power & Light Co. v. United Gas Pipe Line Co., 
    760 F.2d 618
    ,
    
    622 (5th Cir. 1985). Before the district court, Cox argued that her termination was a violation of her
    
    procedural due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
    
    States Constitution because four members of the Board who voted against her were irreversibly
    
    biased. As we stated, the Board asserts that Cox waived this argument by waiting until after she was
    
    terminated to seek recusals and that the rule of necessity precluded the Board members’ recusal. The
    
    Board also argues that the district court’s factual findings were both erroneous and did not comport
    
    with the mandates of Rule 52(a). We will address each of these contentions in turn.
    
    
         1
         First, the previous a ppeal involved the issue of suspension with pay pending the investigation of the
    charges against Cox. That issue was rendered moot by the completion of the investigation, Cox’s hearing, and
    Cox’s termination by the Board.
        Second, the appellants’ argument of qualified immunity is without merit. It is well established law in this
    Circuit that the defenses of qualified and absolute immunity do not extend to suits for injunctive relief under
    42 U.S.C. § 1983. Chrissy F. By Medley v. Mississippi Dept. of Public Welfare, 
    925 F.2d 844
     (5th Cir.
    1991).
    
                                                          5
            1. Waiver.
    
            We find the Board’s argument that Cox waived her right to seek recusal of the various Board
    
    members without merit. The Board argues that Cox was apprised of evidence of the alleged partiality
    
    of the Board members as early as the April 1995 injunction hearing, yet she did not seek recusals at
    
    that time. Instead, it argues, she waited until after the November 1995 termination hearing when she
    
    was terminated, to seek recusals. This argument is both unfounded in the law and on the facts. It
    
    was not through strategy or neglect that Cox waited to seek recusals. The district court limited the
    
    scope of the April 1995 hearing to only the issue of Cox’s removal without procedural due process.
    
    In fact, the court denied Cox’s motion to expand the scope of the hearing to include “evidence of
    
    retaliation” and other related evidence. Cox was forced to wait until the November 1995 termination
    
    hearing to move for recusals. Not surprisingly, at the November 1995 hearing, the Board, which
    
    consisted of the members whom Cox sought recusal, refused to consider Cox’s motion for recusal.
    
    Cox was thus forced to wait until after the November 1995 hearing to seek the redress she sought
    
    twice before.    Further, the cases the Board cites in support of its argument are factually
    
    distinguishable and minimally relevant. We therefore reject this argument.
    
            2. Rule of Necessity.
    
            Appellants next argue that the rule of necessity requires that the recused Board members, even
    
    if biased, be restored to their positions on the Board. We find this argument unpersuasive. Essentially,
    
    the rule of necessity requires an adjudicatory body (judges, boards, commissions, etc.) with sole or
    
    exclusive authority to hear a matter to do so even if the members of that body may have prejudged
    
    the results of a particular hearing. While it is true that the rule of necessity ordinarily mandates the
    
    inclusion of board members, even those who have a bias against a party they must preside over, the
    
    rule is not implicated in this case. As the district court stated, the rule of necessity is not implicated
    
    where recusals based on bias do not deprive the board of a quorum. (citing Bakalis v. Golembeski,
    
    
    
    
                                                        6
    
    35 F.3d 318
    , 327 n. 11 (7th Cir. 1994)).2 The Board argues that Cox has wrongfully been allowed
    
    to “pick and choose” which Board members to recuse, while maintaining a quorum. Notably, the
    
    Board fails to cite any legal authority for its claim that this court must evaluate Cox’s motive for only
    
    seeking recusals of four Board members and not all six (including Stan Miller and Rodesa Metoyer)
    
    against whom Cox made allegations of bias. We interpret the rule of necessity to apply only in
    
    situations where a sole adjudicatory body would be precluded from carrying out its function because
    
    of disqualifications. Such is not the case before us. Louisiana law provides that a superintendent
    
    “shall be removable for such cause by a majority vote of the membership of the school board at any
    
    regular meeting or at any special meeting after due notice.” See La. Atty. Gen. Op. No. 77-195, 
    1977 WL 34537
     (La.A.G. 1977). We read this language to mean a majority of the board members eligible
    
    to vote, not a majority of the whole board. Cf. La. Atty. Gen. Op. No. 84-902, 
    1984 WL 195737
    
    (La.A.G. 1984) (opining that where there was an eight-man school board and one member died, four
    
    members constituted a quorum for voting purposes). Thus, a quorum existed after the four Board
    
    members were recused, which allowed the Board to function by majority vote. Bakalis, 35 F.3d at
    
    327 n. 11. We therefore reject this argument.
    
            3. Determining Partiality and the District Court’s Factual Findings.
    
            The basic requirement of constitutional due process is a fair and impartial tribunal, whether
    
    at the hands of a court, an administrative agency or a government hearing officer. Gibson v.
    
    Berryhill, 
    411 U.S. 564
    , 569 (1973). The Supreme Court has consistently enforced this basic
    
    procedural right and held that decision makers are constitutionally unacceptable in the following
    
    circumstances: (1) where the decision maker has a direct personal, substantial, and pecuniary interest
    
    in the outcome of the case; (2) where an adjudicator has been the target of personal abuse or criticism
    
    from the party before him; and (3) when a judicial or quasi-judicial decision maker has the dual role
    
    
       2
        See also Bourgeois v. Orleans Parish School Board, 
    53 So. 2d 251
    , 256 (La. 1951) (quoting general rule
    that “a member of an administrative board who is biased or prejudiced against one on trial before the board
    is not required to withdraw from the hearing . . . if his withdrawal would deprive the board of the number of
    members required to take a valid affirmative vote”) (citation omitted).
    
                                                         7
    of investigating and adjudicating disputes and complaints. See Baran v. Port of Beaumont Navigation
    
    Dist. of Jefferson County, 
    57 F.3d 436
    , 444-46 (5th Cir. 1995).
    
              The third situation is the one at issue in the instant case. The problem of a procedural defect
    
    arises when the decision makers have prejudged the facts to such an extent that their minds are
    
    “irrevocably closed” before actual adjudication. Id. at 446. Nevertheless, bias by an adjudicator is
    
    not lightly established. The movant must overcome two strong presumptions: (1) the presumption
    
    of honesty and integrity of the adjudicators; and (2) the presumption that those making decisions
    
    affecting the public are doing so in the public interest. Yet, both the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme
    
    Court have recognized that a movant challenging the two presumptions may convince a court that
    
    “under a realistic appraisal o f psychological tendencies and human weaknesses, conferring
    
    investigative and adjudicative powers on the same individuals poses such a risk of actual bias or
    
    prejudgment that the practice must be forbidden if the guarantee of due process is to be adequately
    
    implemented.” Id. (quoting Winthrow v. Larkin, 
    421 U.S. 35
    , 47 (1975)).
    
              The Supreme Court has held that in some instances, a school board’s decision is a legislative
    
    decision—not adjudicative—such that the decision has significant governmental and public policy
    
    dimensions that allow it (the school board) to make decisions in the public interest even if it is
    
    prejudiced to a particular party.3 Nevertheless, adjudicative decisions, or issues not of a legislative,
    
    policy or legal nature, should be free of bias or prejudice. Thus an adjudicative decision maker should
    
    be disqualified if he or she has prejudged disputed adjudicative issues. Moreover, in the context of
    
    school or college boards, appellate jurisprudence has favored recusing board members who display
    
    a bias or prejudice that would result in an unconstitutional decision.4
    
    
       3
           See Hortonville Joint School District v. Hortonville Educational Assn., 
    426 U.S. 482
    , 494-95 (1976).
      4
       See Bakalis, 35 F.3d at 326 (distinguishing Hortonville and holding that, in light of “running controversy”
    between plaintiff and the board in which plaintiff had criticized some board members’ conduct as “harmful”
    and “unethical” to which board members responded with public criticism of plaintiff’s job qualifications, there
    was sufficient evidence of prejudgment to render the hearing “violative of due process”); Hall v. Morrison
    School District, 
    31 F.3d 183
    , 192 (4th Cir. 1994) (acknowledging strong presumption of impartiality but
    holding “the board was actually biased against Hall, overcoming any presumption of impartiality afforded the
    board,” when members of the board were involved in a vendetta against Hall because of her harsh public
    
                                                          8
            Applying the foregoing legal principles to the first prong of the preliminary injunction
    
    requirements, the district court cogently addressed each of the Board’s arguments and held that “four
    
    board members had reached prehearing commitments on questions of adjudicative fact, thus
    
    establishing an unconstitutional level of impartiality.” Upon our careful review of the February 29,
    
    1996 ruling of the district court, we find that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it
    
    granted a preliminary injunction in favor of Cox. The Board argues, however, that the district court
    
    failed to make adequate findings of fact pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 52(a), particularly regarding
    
    Board members Dixon and Pearson.5 We disagree.
    
            Rule 52(a) provides that in cases tried before the court without a jury, the court shall find the
    
    facts specially and state separately the conclusions of law thereon. Where trial court findings are
    
    couched in a conclusory fashion, appellate courts have remanded cases so that the trial court may
    
    provide the reviewing court with a “clear understanding of the analytical process by which ultimate
    
    findings were reached . . . .” Hydrospace-Challenger, Inc. v. Tracor/MAS, Inc., 
    520 F.2d 1030
    , 1034
    
    
    criticism of the board); Staton v. Mayes, 
    552 F.2d 908
     (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 
    434 U.S. 907
     (1977)
    (distinguishing Hortonville and holding that school board member who made public statements pledging to
    remove superintendent was unconstitutionally biased in voting to discharge the superintendent at a hearing
    called for that purpose).
       5
       We are convinced that the district court was keenly aware of its Rule 52(a) responsibilities because of the
    manner in which it prefaced its findings. The court stated in pertinent part:
                         Having outlined the due process principles that must govern this case,
                         we now turn to the factual record before us. To say the least, this record
                         reeks with copious and unmistakable evidence of partiality. We will
                         name but a few of the events that, in out judgment, demonstrate beyond
                         a reasonable doubt that Mrs. Cox did not get the hearing to which she
                         was constitutionally entitled. There are many incidents, but the
                         following is more than ample evidence that an impartial body did not
                         receive the evidence that was tendered to it.
                         ....
    
                         In sum, the record is replete with evidence that at least four panel
                         members harbored sufficient indicia of partiality to render a hearing a
                         parody of justice. As we said, the record is overwhelming with such
                         evidence; the cited situations represent only those that stand in the
                         brightest relief.
    
    District Court’s Ruling at 13, 15 (emphasis added).
    
                                                           9
    (5th Cir. 1975). The Board argues that this case should be “remanded to the district court for further
    
    consideration so that a sufficient predicate for appellate review can be established.” Although the
    
    Board’s argument has a recognized legal basis, Rule 52(a) does not require that the district court set
    
    out findings on all factual questions that arise in a case. Golf City, Inc. v. Wilson Sporting Goods
    
    Co., Inc., 
    555 F.2d 426
    , 433 (5th Cir. 1977). We will briefly highlight part of the factual predicate
    
    found in the record upon which the district court based its decision.
    
            a. Dixon and Pearson.
    
            When the district court ruled that Dixon and Pearson were irreversibly biased, it gave the
    
    following explanation: “In the interest of avoiding further exacerbation of what was a tender subject,
    
    we will temper our opinion and not mention or detail the disqualifying events concerning Board
    
    members Dixon and Pearson. We will recognize, however, that their prehearing protestations rose
    
    to the level of irreversible partiality and bias.” After reviewing the record we have no doubt about
    
    the factual basis for the district court’s finding of bias on the part of Dixon and Pearson. Both Dixon
    
    and Pearson were embarrassed publicly by an investigation of abusive use of the WATS telephone
    
    line maintained by the Board. Though not denying their actions, they later voiced their objection over
    
    the handling of the investigation and stated how their opinion of Cox changed after this incident.
    
    Board member Ruth O’Quinn testified at the 1996 injunction hearing that she had “never seen
    
    Pearson as angry as she was the night that her name had surfaced regarding the WATS line.” O’Quinn
    
    also testified to Pearson’s and Dixon’s statements regarding how the WATS line investigation had
    
    been the turning point of the relationship between the Board and Cox.6 In addition, Cox testified that
    
    at the March 1995 school board hearing—when the Board voted to suspend her—Dixon stated that
    
    her tenure as superintendent had “come under siege.”
    
    
    
    
       6
        O’Quinn testified that Pearson stated there were eight solid votes for Cox until the WATS line incident,
    and Dixon spoke up and said, “no, nine” (meaning not eight, but nine votes were in her favor before the
    investigation). O’Quinn believed that those statements were indicative of the partiality of the Board during the
    hearing.
    
                                                          10
           The record also showed that despite a court order limiting the Board’s hiring power, Dixon
    
    sought to circumvent that order by instructing several school system employees to make certain hiring
    
    decisions of his choosing. Jane Swearingen, Principal of Acadian Sixth Grade Center, testified that
    
    Dixon left notes on several occasions instructing her to carry out his hiring recommendations, in
    
    direct contravention of the court order. Swearingen also testified that Dixon stated they could work
    
    around the court order. Undoubtedly the district court concluded that Dixon knew that Cox had
    
    petitioned the court for the very order he was trying to circumvent. This knowledge coupled with
    
    his actions testified to by Swearingen was typical of the quality of the evidence the district court had
    
    before it when it found bias on the part of Dixon and Pearson.
    
    
    
    
           b. Doyle.
    
           Similarly, evidence of bias on the part of Board member Doyle was well documented in the
    
    record and substantiated the district court’s findings. The court described the evidence concerning
    
    Doyle as “most overpowering.” The district court specifically noted that Doyle’s “prehearing
    
    statements in public and to the media that promised a firing for Betty Cox, when coupled with open
    
    hostility to compliance with the court order concerning hiring recommendations that had been obeyed
    
    by Mrs. Cox, presented more than adequat e pro of of partiality.” Specifically, Wendy Sledd a/k/a
    
    Wendy Williams, a reporter for KRRV Radio, testified at the 1996 injunction hearing that Doyle
    
    stated to her on November 17, 1995 that the November 29, 1995 school board hearing was “D-Day”
    
    for Cox and that “she would be fired.”
    
             In addition, Cox testified about how on occasion Doyle would call “irate” and “screaming”
    
    wanting to know why Cox recommended a person for a position over a person he recommended for
    
    the position, even though he was aware of the court’s order prohibiting such acts. The district court
    
    obviously construed this testimony as showing Doyle’s refusal to adhere to the court’s order
    
    prohibiting recommendations of that kind and further evinced Doyle’s animosity toward Cox. This
    
    
                                                      11
    conclusion was buttressed by O’Quinn’s testimony that at a board meeting preceding the discharge
    
    hearing, Doyle again voiced his discontent over Cox’s failure to hire a person he had recommended
    
    and was overheard saying Cox “should be fired.” These incidents are but a few of the plethora of
    
    evidence in the record upon which the district court based its finding of partiality.
    
            c. Gatlin.
    
            Evidence of Board member Gatlin’s bias was probably the most publicly documented of all
    
    the Board members. Cox uncovered Gatlin’s practice of self dealing prior to his electon to the
                                                                                        i
    
    School Board. While with the Special Education Department of the School System, Gatlin bought
    
    equipment from a company he owned to service a nonprofit organization which he was on its board
    
    of directors and which provided services for the Rapides Parish school system.                     A federal
    
    investigation took place—initiated by Cox—which resulted in Gatlin’s forced resignation from his
    
    position as a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit organization. Although Gatlin denied
    
    having known that Cox initiated the federal investigation until the 1996 injunction hearing, the
    
    investigation surrounding Gatlin’s pract ices was well documented in the local newspaper and was
    
    public knowledge for anyone within Rapides Parish well before the injunction hearing.
    
            Kate Swift, a Rapides Parish school employee, testified that shortly before Cox’s suspension
    
    resolution was adopted, Gatlin called her at home and during the conversation stated that they (Gatlin
    
    and Swift) had lived there all their lives and that they would be there long after “that bitch is gone,”
    
    referring to Cox.7 Cox also testified that, on t he day the Board amended the agenda to add the
    
    resolution to suspend Cox with pay and there had been a public outcry, Gatlin responded in defense
    
    of himself. Having voted for the resolution, he said “it was well published by the news media about
    
    where I stood. I have not changed my stance yet. I could have had my crowd here tonight, but I
    
    didn’t choose to.” Board member O’Quinn also stated that in her mind Cox could not and did not get
    
    
       7
         Though Cox was not referred to by name, Swift testified that she knew Gatlin was talking about Cox
    because “they were trying to rid of Doctor Cox.” When asked what she meant by her comment she responded
    that it was evident by the “negative actions by the school board” and the “general discord” at the school board
    meetings.
    
                                                          12
    a fair hearing partly because Gatlin had “animosity” toward Cox. As a result of those incidents, and
    
    others, the district court concluded that it was “ludicrous” to believe Gatlin could sit as an “impartial
    
    adjudicator assessing the propriety of investigations conducted by Mrs. Cox when he was a party to
    
    the transactions in question.”
    
              In sum, the record in the case unfolds like a soap opera. The respective views of the parties
    
    were regularly aired out in the print and broadcast media in the Rapides Parish area. One need only
    
    make a cursory review of the exhibits and the testimony to get a clear impression of the rancor and
    
    deeply held views of the aforementioned school board members prior to the discharge hearing.
    
    Indeed, the district court’s sparing recitation of the facts underlying its ruling was a tacit
    
    acknowledgment of the general public’s and the school board’s awareness of the details of the
    
    accusations in the case. The district court’s exercise of discretion limiting the amount of discussion
    
    assigned to its finding of bias on the part of the four Board members cannot be said to have been
    
    abused.
    
              B. Substantial Threat of Irreparable Injury.
    
              Although we agree with the district court’s determination regarding Cox’s likelihood of
    
    success on the merits, our analysis is not complete. To be entitled to an injunction, Cox was also
    
    required to show a substantial threat of irreparable injury. Hull, 1 F.3d at 1453. After a careful
    
    review of the record, we hold that irreparable injury has been shown. We adopt the reasoning of the
    
    district court, which concluded that
    
              Cox has shown not only that she has suffered a deprivation of her due process rights,
              but she has also provided strong evidence, in the form of an affidavit from a former
              school superintendent with nationwide experience in the conduct of searches to fill
              such positions, that the Board’s biased finding of inefficiency and incompetence will
              inflict such severe injury to her professional reputation that a monetary award would
              likely be inadequate and almost certainly speculative.
    
    (Emphasis added) (footnote omitted). We find the threat of injury to Cox’s reputation and her ability
    
    to procure comparable employment, not to mention the egregious and constitutionally infirm hearing
    
    she was subject to, sufficient to satisfy irreparable injury. See United Church of the Medical center
    
    
    
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    v. Medical Center Commission, 
    689 F.2d 693
    , 701 (7th Cir. 1982) (finding irreparable injury when
    
    plaintiff was forced to submit to adjudication before an unconstitutionally biased public commission).
    
           C. Balancing of Potential Harm to Cox with the Hardship to the Board.
    
           Next, we must balance t he potential harm to Cox with the hardship to the Board if an
    
    injunction is not issued. The district court found that “allowing Superintendent Cox to continue in
    
    her executive capacity would not visit any substantial harm on the School Board, and indeed that far
    
    greater harm to both Cox and the entire school system would result from allowing the
    
    unconstitutional [termination] to stand.” In light of the evidence previously discussed and the
    
    additional evidence in the record, we agree with the district court’s determination that the harm to
    
    Cox caused by an unfair hearing far outweighs any harm that the Board might suffer.
    
           D. Harm to the Public Interest.
    
           Finally, to complete our analysis, we must decide whether the issuance of an injunction would
    
    undermine the public interest. The district court found that the public interest would be undermined
    
    if the unconstitutional actions of the Board were allowed to stand. We agree. Moreover, the public
    
    interest is enhanced by an adjudication by the duly elected school board which comports with basic
    
    protections of due process to which all citizens are entitled. Thus, we hold that the public interest
    
    would not be undermined by upholding the injunction.
    
                                              CONCLUSION
    
           Having read the record in detail, we agree with the district court’s opinion that more than
    
    sufficient evidence exists to support issuance of the preliminary injunction. The district court thus
    
    did not abuse its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction which returned Dr. Cox to the
    
    position of Rapides Parish School Superintendent with restitution to the emoluments of her office
    
    since the date of her discharge. Accordingly, we AFFIRM.
    
    
    
    
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