The ousted New Mexico Military Institute’s Alumni Association was dealt a crucial blow Monday when a judge ordered the embattled group to immediately stop using the Institute’s name, logos and crest.
Eddy County Judge Jane Shuler-Gray ruled against the Association as part of a lawsuit filed by NMMI against its former alumni fundraising organization.
NMMI’s attorney, Richard Olson of Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor and Martin, said the decision was important.
Olson argued during the hearing in October that the Association’s continued use of the school’s name, logos and marks violated its now-terminated contract and caused irreparable harm to the Institute.
“We think it’s important,” Olson said. “It enjoins them from using the name, logos and marks, as they contracted to do. It’s significant. It is enforcing a critical and significant portion of the contract.”
The Association’s attorney, Jeffery Dahl, said his clients would be considering their [auth] options following the ruling.
“We don’t have any comment,” Dahl said. “We’re going to be looking at our options and trying to figure out what our course of action is going to be from this point forward.”
John Phinizy, president of the Association, has led the charge to fight NMMI in court.
The Association was banished from school property in April but decided to continue operating and raising funds in the school’s name.
NMMI filed a lawsuit June 10, asking the court to seize some $5 million in funds held by the Association and its operating account, ban the group from representing the school and ordering the Association to stop using any Institute logos, trademarks or images.
The two parties will meet again next week to schedule future hearings in the case.
Phinizy, a lawyer and assistant district attorney in Chaves County, issued a statement Monday through a publicity representative at The Waite Company.
“The Institute and the Association still have a long way to go in hammering out its future relationship,” Phinizy wrote. “This is a marathon and not a sprint.”
NMMI asked the court to immediately move to stop the Association from using its name and logos last month to prevent further harm. Both sides focused on the agreement that once bound them together.
During the hearing, the Association argued that NMMI’s Superintendent, Major Gen. Jerry Grizzle, “strong-armed” its board members into signing a memorandum of agreement, or contract, in March 2012.
Shuler-Gray found the Association and the Institute discussed the contract several times.
“The Association had an opportunity to bargain for the terms and provisions of the (agreement) and actually did bargain for the terms,” Shuler-Gray wrote.
In the final order, Shuler-Gray found that the agreement was a valid and enforceable contract between the Institute and the Association. Both parties negotiated and discussed the terms of the agreement through emails, Shuler-Gray found.
The final board decision was approved in a split vote, when six members voted in favor of it and four were against it.
NMMI’s Board of Regents terminated this contract in April after the Association failed to resolve its long-running financial issues.
Once terminated, the agreement mandated that the Association no longer use the name “New Mexico Military Institute” in its corporate title or be allowed to use any of the Institute’s intellectual property rights.
The Institute terminated the agreement in accordance with the relevant contract conditions, Shuler-Gray ruled.
“As a result, the Association is no longer permitted to use the name ‘New Mexico Military institute,’ ‘NMMI,’ the Crest, the Stack logo, and the Rifle, Cannon, and Saber Coat of Arms, or any other marks, logos or intellectual property of the Institute,” Shuler-Gray ordered.
She also found that “NMMI,” the “Rifle, Cannon and Saber Coat of Arms,” the “Crest” and the “NMMI Stack” logo were valid and legally protectable marks of the Institute. The school’s name is also reserved under the laws of New Mexico as a provided by the New Mexico Constitution, she ruled.