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CORNELIO v. METROPOLITAN DIST. COUNCIL

June 30, 1965

George Anthony CORNELIO
v.
METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COUNCIL OF PHILADELPHIA AND VICINITY, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LUONGO

This is a suit under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C.A. § 401 et seq., seeking injunctive relief from and damages for allegedly unlawful disciplinary action. The suit is by a union member against his local (Local 1856); its parent body, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; the Metropolitan District Council of Philadelphia (Council), a subordinate body of the United Brotherhood and the governing unit for all the locals in the Philadelphia area; and certain named individuals who are connected with Council in various official capacities.

Plaintiff's complaint is that he was falsely accused and unfairly convicted, fined and suspended on charges of having made defamatory statements about union officials.

 Defendants' attack on the complaint by this motion to dismiss is threefold:

 (a) This court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter;

 (b) This court lacks jurisdiction for failure of service on an indispensible party; and

 (c) The complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

 Since this suit involves a claim of the violation of a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights portion of the LMRDA, the subject matter attack on jurisdiction is without substance. The rule was thus stated in Hughes v. Local No. 11, etc., Ironworkers, 287 F.2d 810, 814 (3d Cir. 1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 829, 82 S. Ct. 51, 7 L. Ed. 2d 32 (1961).

 '* * * a United States District court has jurisdiction to determine the validity of any substantial claim asserted under the 'Bill of Rights' subchapter of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 even though it may determine ultimately that the claim is not one upon which relief may be granted.'

 The indispensible party attack on jurisdiction relates to the defendant parent body, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, and the asserted failure of effective service upon it. The merits of this point have not been considered since I have concluded that the complaint must be dismissed on the third ground raised by defendants, failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

 For the purposes of this motion, I have accepted as true the following facts alleged in the complaint:

 While employed at a particular job site, plaintiff and twenty fellow employees were discharged by their employer. Plaintiff requested his local to petition Council for arbitration with the employer concerning the discharges. The requested petition was drafted and plaintiff thereafter presented it to Council which assigned two business agents, defendants Benjamin T. Gray and George Gushue, to investigate the charges set forth in the petition. Gray and Gushue failed to investigate the charges but instead, at the instigation of defendant Robert H. Gray, a Council official, prepared and obtained signatures of eleven of plaintiff's co-workers to a mimeographed form of statement to the effect that the signatory had heard plaintiff make defamatory statements *fn1" concerning union officials at the job site. On the basis of the evidence thus obtained, Gray and Gushue preferred charges *fn2" against plaintiff. *fn3" By reason of a provision of the union Constitution *fn4" permitting representation only by a person who is a member of the union in good standing, plaintiff was deprived of the opportunity to be represented by counsel of his choice at the trial which was held before a Council Trial Committee on June 23, 1961. The charges against plaintiff were sustained and the Trial Committee recommended to Council that plaintiff he fined the sum of $ 350 and suspended for five years from all activities (not from membership) of the United Brotherhood and its subordinate bodies. The Trial Committee's recommendation was adopted by Council in July, 1961, and that action was affirmed by the General President on February 18, 1963. *fn5"

 The essence of plaintiff's complaint is that he did not make the defamatory statements attributed to him; that the charges against him were false; that he was denied the opportunity to refute the charges because he was not accorded the full and fair hearing guaranteed him by § 101(a)(5) of LMRDA (29 U.S.C.A. § 411(a)(5)); *fn6" and that the resultant conviction and disciplinary action was unlawful. Plaintiff contends that he was denied the full and fair hearing guaranteed by the LMRDA in that

 (1) he was prejudiced by the fact that his accusers were persons of influence (business agents) within the union; and

 (2) he was denied the right to be represented by 'outside' counsel, i.e. by a person other than a member of the union. Neither ground is sufficient, as a matter of law, to sustain a charge of deprivation of the full and fair hearing guaranteed ...


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