While the Miss America Organization has reinstated licensing and named new leadership for several state pageants, the organization is expected to head to court early in 2019.
Atlantic City Superior Court Judge Michael Blee granted an order to show cause in a lawsuit filed by a former MAO board member and four state organizations, according to court officials.
However, Blee did not issue the temporary restraining order against the organizations’ current leadership that the suit sought.
The MAO did not respond to request for comment Thursday. Carlson and Hopper previously called the lawsuit “meritless.”
A court date has been scheduled for Jan. 25, where Blee is expected to rule on several issues detailed in the lawsuit, which claims Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and President and CEO Regina Hopper orchestrated an “illegal and bad-faith takeover” of the MAO, beginning in January 2018.
The civil lawsuit and call for leadership resignations stem from an ongoing battle between the MAO and the state-level pageant leadership.
Since June, volunteers with the organization have said there has been a lack of transparency over the MAO’s decision making, including the elimination of the swimsuit competition and other changes to the pageant structure.
According to the lawsuit, state directors from the Miss Georgia, Miss Pennsylvania, Miss Tennessee and Miss West Virginia pageants who spoke to the media on the issue had their state licenses revoked or terminated.
Over the weekend, the MAO selected leadership for three of the state pageants involved in the suit: Georgia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
The licensing was also reinstated for the Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant Inc.
On Wednesday, the MAO announced that the state licensing for the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation had been renewed, after terminating the licensing agreement earlier this month.
According to a Miss New Jersey board member, no specific reason was given as to why the license was revoked.
After the 2019 Miss America Competition in September, state organizations were issued one of four letters from MAO lawyers either ending the licensing agreements or asking for reasons why the state organizations publicly took actions against the MAO and its brand.
The MAO states in the state organization agreement it has the right to terminate the licensing contract with or without reason.
In June, 22 state executive directors, including Sally Johnston of the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation, signed a “vote of no confidence” online letter that called for the immediate resignations of Carlson, Hopper and the entire Miss America Board of Trustees.
After being notified of the default on the contract, the Miss New Jersey board of directors complied with the request, submitting their reasons. When the licensing, which was to expire Dec. 31, 2019, was terminated, the Miss New Jersey board filed an appeal to the MAO.
With the licensing reinstated, Johnston, a pageant volunteer for more than 50 years, stepped down and the Miss New Jersey board of directors elected David Holtzman, of Ventnor, as executive director.
“The new operations proposal will give New Jersey an even stronger program for the young women who see the Miss America system as a path to education and service,” said Holtzman said in a statement. “As we begin a new era of Miss New Jersey, we want to thank the many volunteers who worked so hard to give us a strong foundation to build upon.”
Holtzman could not be reached for additional comment Thursday.
The newly reorganized board of directors is scheduled to meet in January.
According to the MAO press release, the New Jersey chapter will seek out corporate and organizational partners as well as new board members from around the state.