Member Can't Challenge MLS Access Rules

Metropolitan Kansas City Board of REALTORS®v. West, No. WD 56526 (Mo. Ct. App. June 30, 1999).

March 1, 2000

In 1994 the Metropolitan Kansas City (Mo.) Board of REALTORS® voted to suspend one of its members. At the end of the disciplinary proceedings, the board filed a declaratory judgment action—as required by its bylaws--that sought a court judicial declaration that the board hadn’t violated the member’s rights during its disciplinary proceedings.

The member filed a counterclaim against the board and also the Heartland Multiple Listing Service. The board was one of the shareholders in the MLS. The member claimed that membership in the MLS was predicated on membership in one of the shareholder organizations (local REALTOR® associations) and that this was an illegal tying arrangement in violation of Missouri antitrust law.

The member and the MLS reached a settlement, and the MLS was dismissed from the suit. The trial court found that the board hadn’t violated the member’s rights during its disciplinary proceedings and also ruled for the board on the member’s counterclaim. The member appealed the counterclaim ruling.

The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled for the board, though for reasons neither argued nor expected. The court found that the member lacked “standing” to challenge the membership arrangements between the board, the MLS, and its members. “Standing” is a judicially created doctrine in which the party bringing a claim is required to demonstrate to the court a sufficient injury to be remedied by the claim. Here, the member couldn’t demonstrate that he’d been harmed, since even though he’d been suspended from the local board, he was never denied MLS access.

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