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HALL v. MARSHALL

September 7, 1979

CATHERINE HALL and C. WES MINOR
v.
RAY MARSHALL; WILLIAM USERY; PHILADELPHIA LOCAL, AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION; AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION; JAMES DUNLAP; PHILIP FLEMING; DAVID JOHNSON; AL ROSEN; JOHN GRACE; VINCENT LOGAN, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs, Catherine Hall and C. Wes Minor, filed this civil action against Ray Marshall, the Secretary of Labor; William Usery, former Secretary of Labor; American Postal Workers Union (the "APWU"); Philadelphia Local, APWU (the "Local"); James Dunlap, a member of the Local; Philip Fleming, President of the Local; David Johnson, Vice-President of the Local; Al Rosen, a former President of the Local; Vincent Logan, Postmaster of Philadelphia; and the United States Postal Service. Plaintiffs, members of the Local, seek relief in connection with two elections for the office of General Treasurer of the Local. They challenge the decision of the defendant, Secretary of Labor (the "Secretary"), declining to bring suit to have the election results set aside under section 402 of Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (the "LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 482.

 Presently before the Court are defendants, Local and United States Postal Service's, motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment, defendant, Secretary's, motion for summary judgment, defendants, Local, APWU, Dunlap, Fleming, Johnson, Rosen and Grace's, motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment, and plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. For the reasons hereinafter set forth, the defendants' motions for summary judgment will be granted, and the plaintiffs' motion will be denied.

 The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959.

 Plaintiffs challenge the decision of the Secretary not to institute suit to have election results set aside under section 402 of Title IV of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 482. *fn1" The LMRDA regulates various aspects of labor-management relations in an attempt to ensure that "labor organizations, employers, and their officials adhere to the highest standards of responsibility and ethical conduct in administering the affairs of these organizations . . ." 29 U.S.C. § 401(a). The special function of Title IV of the LMRDA is to ensure free and democratic union elections, and the statute sets forth an exclusive enforcement scheme to redress election abuses. Dunlop v. Bachowski, 421 U.S. 560, 569, 95 S. Ct. 1851, 44 L. Ed. 2d 377 (1975); Trbovich v. United Mine Workers, 404 U.S. 528, 532, 92 S. Ct. 630, 30 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1972); Wirtz v. Bottle Blowers Association, 389 U.S. 463, 470, 88 S. Ct. 643, 19 L. Ed. 2d 705 (1968); Calhoon v. Harvey, 379 U.S. 134, 140, 85 S. Ct. 292, 13 L. Ed. 2d 190 (1964).

 The LMRDA precludes any private right of action by disappointed office seekers or other union members to contest the results of a union election. Section 402 of Title IV, 29 U.S.C. § 482, sets up an exclusive method for protecting rights under the LMRDA by permitting an individual union member to file a complaint with the Secretary challenging the validity of an election. The Secretary is required to investigate the allegations of such complaint, and, if he finds probable cause to believe that Title IV has been violated and that the violation probably affected the outcome of the election, he may file suit against the union to set aside the election results and secure a new election conducted under his supervision, Dunlop, 421 U.S. at 560, 95 S. Ct. 1851, 44 L. Ed. 2d 377 ; Wirtz, 389 U.S. at 463, 88 S. Ct. 643, 19 L. Ed. 2d 705 . As the Court said in Trbovich, 404 U.S. at 528, 92 S. Ct. 630, 30 L. Ed. 2d 686, and reiterated in Dunlop, supra, at 569, 95 S. Ct. at 1859:

 
Congress made suit by the Secretary the exclusive post-election remedy for two principal reasons: (1) to protect unions from frivolous litigation and unnecessary judicial interference with their elections, and (2) to centralize in a single proceeding such litigation as might be warranted . . . .

 Scope of Court's Review of Secretary's Decision Declining Institution of Legal Action.

 
The reviewing court shall
 
(2) hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be
 
(A) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; . . .

 Under this standard, the Court must determine whether the Secretary's decision that legal action "was unwarranted in this case" is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Because section 402 of Title IV, 29 U.S.C. § 482, relies upon the special knowledge and discretion of the Secretary for the determination of both the probable violation of Title IV and its probable effect, the Court is not authorized to substitute its judgment for the decision of the Secretary. To enable the Court to intelligently review the Secretary's determination, the Secretary must provide the Court and the complainant with copies of a statement of reasons supporting his decision. Dunlop, 421 U.S. at 560, 95 S. Ct. 1851, 44 L. Ed. 2d 377 . As stated by the Court in Dunlop, id., at 574, 95 S. Ct. at 1861:

 
. . . a statement of reasons must be adequate to enable the court to determine whether the Secretary's decision was reached for an impermissible reason or for no reason at all. For this essential purpose, although detailed findings of fact are not required, the statement of reasons should inform the court and the complaining union member of both the grounds of decision and the essential facts upon which the Secretary's inferences are based.

 The Supreme Court in Dunlop, supra, defined the permissible scope of this Court's review in the following manner:

 
Except in what must be the rare case, the court's review should be confined to examination of the "reasons" statement, and the determination whether the statement, without more, evinces that the Secretary's decision is so irrational as to constitute the decision arbitrary and capricious. Thus, review may not extend to cognizance or trial of a complaining member's challenges to the factual bases for the Secretary's conclusion either that no violations occurred or that they did not affect the outcome of the election. The full trappings of adversary trial-type hearings would be defiant of congressional objectives not to permit individuals to block or delay resolution of post-election disputes, but rather "to settle as quickly as practicable the cloud on the incumbents' titles to office": and "to protect unions from frivolous litigation and unnecessary interference with their elections."

 Id. at 572-73, 95 S. Ct. at 1860.

 The Court in Dunlop, Supra, proceeded to identify some of the "rare cases" that might justify review beyond the confines of the reasons statement. The Court stated that such review would be proper "if the Secretary were to declare that he no longer would enforce Title IV or otherwise completely abrogate his enforcement responsibilities . . . (or) if the Secretary prosecuted complaints in a constitutionally discriminatory manner." Id. at 574, 95 S. Ct. at 1861. Other such cases might arise when the Secretary's decision is "plainly beyond the bounds of the Act (or) clearly defiant of the Act." Id. (quoting DeVito v. Shultz, 72 LRRM 2682 (D.D.C.1969)). Plaintiffs, however, contend that the Court should look beyond the statement of reasons and conduct a factual inquiry in this case. For the reasons hereinafter set forth, the Court has determined that none of the allegations of plaintiffs' complaint brings this case within the class of "rare cases" in which review beyond the confines of the statement of reasons might be justified. Our review is therefore limited to an examination of the reasons statement and the determination whether that statement, without more, evinces that the Secretary's decision not to bring suit is so irrational as to constitute his decision arbitrary and capricious.

 History of this Case.

 In June, 1976, the Local held a general election in which plaintiff Hall defeated the incumbent, defendant Dunlap, in the race for the office of General Treasurer of the Local by a margin of twenty-eight votes. Dunlap successfully challenged the validity of the election via the APWU's internal election appeals mechanism on the ground that not all Local members had received ballots. The APWU's National Election Appeals Committee (the "Committee") directed that a new election be held for the offices of General Treasurer and one other office. Hall protested this decision to the Committee by letter dated October 25, 1976. *fn2" The Committee denied his protest on November 4, 1976. The second election was held, and, on November 30, 1976, it was announced that Dunlap defeated Hall by a margin of 277 votes. On November 18, 1976, Hall filed an election protest with Frank H. Palmer, Judge of Election, on the ground that Dunlap wrongly used a special third-class bulk postage rate for the mailing of his campaign literature to the membership in connection with the second election. The Postal Service required that Dunlap pay the ...


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