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May 2, 1958


Appeals, Nos. 234 to 242, inclusive, 266 and 267, Jan. T., 1955, from orders of Court of Common Pleas No. 1 of Philadelphia County, March T., 1955, No. 2150, in case of Philadelphia Marine Trade Association et al. v. International Longshoremen's Association, Local Union No. 1291 et al. Orders reversed.


Abraham E. Freedman, with him Avram G. Adler, and Freedman, Landy and Lorry, for appellants.

Francis A. Scanlan, with him Robert G. Kelly, Thomas F. Mount, Owen B. Rhoads, Kelly, Deasey & Scanlan, Rawle and Henderson, and Barnes, Dechert, Price, Myers & Rhoads, for appellees.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno, Jones and Cohen, JJ.

Author: Chidsey

[ 392 Pa. Page 503]


These appeals are from two orders adjudging the appellant labor union and several of its officers, agents and members, appellants also, guilty of contempt in having violated a preliminary injunction entered by the court below, and sentencing them respectively to pay fines varying from $200 to $1,000.

The injunction was issued in a labor controversy which concerned the introduction of certain technological changes in the unloading of vessels at a pier in the Port of Philadelphia which would have reduced by about one-third the number of longshoremen employed in a particular working unit of 167 men. One of the underlying disagreements between the union and its members on the one hand and the employer and its representatives on the other, was whether the collective bargaining agreement governing the relationship provided for "renegotiation" or "arbitration" in the solution of this disagreement as to the number of men to be employed after the changes in the manner of unloading vessels.

On March 23, 1955 appellees*fn1 filed a complaint in equity seeking injunctive relief because of the refusal of appellants to unload a vessel then in port, and on the same day the court below, without an appearance by appellants, granted a preliminary injunction restraining appellants from (1) interfering "in any unlawful

[ 392 Pa. Page 504]

    manner" with operation at National Sugar Company's refinery, (2) violating the collective bargaining agreement, (3) refusing to arbitrate under the agreement, (4) violating a no work stoppage agreement, (5) refusing to supply longshoremen to unload at the pier, and ordered a hearing to be held two days later on March 25, 1955. After the hearing on March 25, 1955, the court below ordered the preliminary injunction to be continued until final hearing, and from that order appellants prosecuted an appeal to this Court on March 28, 1955.

While the appeal was pending, the men refused to unload the vessel at the pier unless all 167 men in the work-gang were put to work, or to submit to arbitration. On April 4th, appellees filed a petition for a rule upon appellants to show cause why they should not be attached for contempt of the court order of March 23, 1955 (continued in force and effect on March 25th) and that the individual defendants be held in custody until they complied therewith. The rule was granted on the same day and made returnable on April 7th, later changed to April 11th (during which time appellants applied to this Court for a supersedeas, which was denied). In its answer, among other objections, appellants demanded a jury trial in accordance with the Act of June 23, 1931, P.L. 925, § 1, 17 PS § 2047.

On April 13, 1955, the court below adjudged appellants in contempt "Having determined that the defendants have failed to comply with [the] court's order dated March 23, 1955", and fined the eight individual appellants (officers and agents of the International and Local Union) $200 each, and the appellant Local Union itself the sum of $500. In its opinion filed in connection with that order, the court below rejected appellants' motion for a jury trial stating "...

[ 392 Pa. Page 505]

    it is only in cases where the acts charged are indictable as crimes that the right exists," citing Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Co. v. Whary et al., 52 D. & C. 83, as its sole authority for that proposition.

On April 27, 1955, this Court affirmed the March 23 and March 25, 1955 orders of the court below (our opinion, however, was not filed until June 27, 1955, see Philadelphia Marine Trade Association v. International Longshoremen's Association, Local Union No. 1291, 382 Pa. 326, 115 A.2d 733), in an opinion which dealt with the merits of the injunctive orders, but, of course, did not concern itself with the contempt citation of April 13, 1955, which arose after certiorari had issued from this Court.

Following the contempt hearing of April 13, 1955, the union submitted the dispute to arbitration, but this procedure broke down shortly thereafter. On May 2, 1955, the ship which had arrived at the pier on March 22, 1955 still remained unloaded and appellees thereupon brought a "Petition to Compel Compliance with Orders of Court Dated March 23 and 25, 1955" in the court below, praying a rule to show cause (1) why the property of the appellants should not be sequestered, (2) why the appellants should not be fined $15,000 per day commencing April 28, 1955 for the use of appellees, (3) and other relief. The rule to show cause was granted on May 2nd, made returnable on May 5th, and appellants filed a motion to dismiss, again demanding a jury trial under the provisions of the Act of June 23, 1931, supra, among other prayers, and also filed an answer to the petition and rule. On the 4th day of May, the Federal Mediation Service stepped into the dispute between the union members and the employer representatives, and after the Federal Mediator addressed the 167 men in the work-gang, the men voted to return to work pending a final decision

[ 392 Pa. Page 506]

    as to the number of longshoremen to be employed at the pier in the future. On the following day, May 5th, the court was informed that the men were returning to work and a continuance was granted until May 13th. On May 13, 1955, after a hearing, the court below held the appellant union and the appellant Askew, its president, guilty of continuing contempt of its order of March 23, 1955, from April 13, 1955 (the date of the first contempt order) until May 4, 1955, and fined the union $1,000 and Askew $250.

From the orders of April 13, 1955 and May 13, 1955, holding the appellants in contempt and imposing the fines as above stated, these appeals are prosecuted. We are of the opinion that the orders must be reversed. It is clear that the court below, failing to observe the distinctions among the various forms of contempt recognized in this Commonwealth, did not afford to appellants the procedural safeguards which the Legislature and the decisions of this Court have held them to be entitled.

In the petition for attachment filed by appellees in the first of the two contempt proceedings, the petitioners prayed that the individual appellants be held in custody until such time as they would perform in accordance with the preliminary injunction which, on March 23, 1955, had been entered by the court on petitioners' behalf. In their "Petition to Compel Compliance" filed in connection with the second contempt proceeding, appellees prayed that the appellants be required to show cause why their property should not be sequestered and why they should not be fined $15,000 per day "for the use and benefit of the [appellees]". The relief requested by the appellees was unquestionably in the nature of a civil contempt proceeding. As we noted in Knaus v. Knaus, 387 Pa. 370, 127 A.2d 669, at p. 377: "... where the act of contempt

[ 392 Pa. Page 507]

    complained of is the refusal to do or refrain from doing some act ordered or prohibited primarily for the benefit of a private party, proceedings to enforce compliance with the decree of the court are civil in nature. The purpose of a civil contempt proceeding is remedial, and judicial sanctions are employed (1) to coerce the defendant into compliance with the court's order, and (2) in some instances to compensate the complainant for losses sustained: United States v. United Mine Workers of America, 330 U.S. 258, 303." Furthermore, every one of the indicia which we set forth in the Knaus case, supra, at p. 378, was present in these two petitions: "The factors generally said to point to a civil contempt are these: (1) Where the complainant is a private person as opposed to the government or a governmental agency; (2) where the proceeding is entitled in the original injunction action and filed as a continuation thereof as opposed to a separate and independent action; (3) where holding the defendant in contempt affords relief to a private party; (4) where the relief requested is primarily for the benefit of the complainant; and (5) where the acts of contempt complained of are primarily civil in character and do not of themselves constitute crimes or conduct by the defendant so contumelious that the court is impelled to act on its own motion. ..." The petitions in the instant case were brought by private parties, styled as in the original injunction action and filed as a continuation thereof, the relief afforded by the contempt proceeding was for the benefit of private parties, namely the complainants, and the acts of contempt complained of were not offenses against organized society. In their first petition, appellees were praying that appellants be coerced into compliance with the court's order and in the second petition appellees were praying compensation for the losses they had sustained.

[ 392 Pa. Page 508]

The court below, however, although holding appellants in contempt, did not provide appellees with the relief requested; instead it vindicated its own dignity and authority in each instance by punishing the appellants through the imposition of fines. The order of April 13, 1955 was not prospective in nature seeking to compel compliance by appellants for the benefit of the appellees, but was retrospective. In its own terms it stated: "Having determined that the defendants have failed to comply with this court's order dated March 23, 1955, which was continued after hearing on March 25, 1955, defendants ... are fined the sum of $200 each, and defendant ... Union ... is fined the sum of $500". The second contempt order was even more clearly punitive in nature, both by its own terms and because it was entered after appellants had, for all practical purposes, complied with the preliminary injunction in the court below. There can be no doubt that although appellees were requesting relief in the form of a civil contempt proceeding, the court below was holding appellants guilty of criminal contempt.

Were the distinction merely one of nomenclature, it would be of no great moment that the court below applied the wrong label. The distinction, however, is of substantial import, in that the rights attendant to and the consequences flowing from a finding of contempt differ considerably in each instance. "... Contempts broadly fall into two categories, civil and criminal. Criminal contempts are further subdivided into direct and indirect contempts." Knaus v. Knaus, supra, at p. 375, and see Casco Products Corporation v. Hess Brothers, Inc., 184 Pa. Superior Ct. 47, 51, 132 A.2d 922. The ...

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