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United Steelworkers of America Local 1913 and / or Sam Godich v. Union Railroad Co.

decided: April 27, 1979.

UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA LOCAL 1913 AND/OR SAM GODICH
v.
UNION RAILROAD COMPANY SAM GODICH, APPELLANT



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. Civil No. 77-890)

Before Aldisert, Adams and Higginbotham, Circuit Judges.

Author: Higginbotham

Opinion OF THE COURT

I.

Sam Godich, a member of the United Steelworkers of America, Local 1913, was dismissed from his job at the Union Railroad Company in March 1976. Since 1976 Godich has litigated the validity of his termination twice, both in an administrative agency and in a United States district court. He is now before us requesting the most fundamental and elementary right inherent in procedural due process that a party be notified by an adjudicatory body of the date and place of its hearing before that body decides the party's claim. More than a century ago Mr. Justice Story declared that:

(U)pon the eternal principles of justice . . . (a proceeding without notice) is but a solemn fraud, even if it is clothed with all the forms of a judicial proceeding. Bradstreet v. Neptune Insurance Co., 3 F.Cas. No. 1, 793, 1184, 1187 (C.C.D.Mass.1839) (No. 1, 793).

Because of the violation of his right to notice, the judgment below must be reversed and the case remanded to the administrative agency for a hearing in compliance with the law.

II.

After Godich received notice of his dismissal, an "investigatory hearing" was held and Godich was found to have been insubordinate and to have incited and led a work stoppage. Exercising his rights under the Railway Labor Act of 1934, as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-188, Godich challenged his dismissal before Public Law Board No. 1782 (the Board).*fn1 After a hearing the Board found that Union Railroad charges were supported by substantial evidence and denied his claim.

Godich then petitioned for review of the Board's award in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q).*fn2 He challenged the Board's award on a number of grounds, including a claim that he has been denied his right to counsel during his hearing before the Board, in violation of 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (j).*fn3

The Railway Labor Act limits judicial review of the Board's award. A court may overturn a Board award if the Board acted fraudulently or corruptly, or if the Board failed to comply with the requirements of the Act. 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q).*fn4 The district court concluded that the Board had not exceeded its jurisdiction and that there was no evidence of fraud or corruption. However, because it felt that the record was not adequate to review Godich's claim that he had been denied the right to counsel, it remanded the case to the Board for further findings. United Steelworkers of America, Local 1913 and/or Godich v. Union Railroad Co., No. 77-890 (W.D.Pa. April 14, 1978).

On remand the Public Law Board found that at the initial hearing before the Board Godich had been represented by the Staff Representative of the United Steelworkers and that "at no time during the hearing did Godich ask to be represented by anyone other than (the Staff Representative)." Union Railroad Co. v. Steelworkers of America, Local 1913, Supp. to Award No. 1, Case No. 1 (Pub.Law Bd. 1782, May 22, 1978).

The district court, upon receipt of the Board's findings, concluded "that petitioner effectively waived his right to legal counsel" at his first Board hearing and dismissed the petition. United Steelworkers Local 1913 and/or Godich v. Union Railroad Co., No. 77-890 (W.D.Pa. June 9, 1978).

Godich has requested this court to reverse the decision of the district court on a number of grounds, including a claim that the Public Law Board failed to notify him that it was convening to determine whether his right to counsel at the initial hearing had been denied. Godich asserts that the failure of the Board to notify him of the second hearing violated his rights of notice under the Railway Labor Act and the due process clause of the United States Constitution.*fn5 We hold that the plaintiff had a right to receive notice of the second Board hearing and that this right was violated. We will, therefore, reverse the determination of the district court that Godich waived his right to counsel at the initial hearing ...


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