In accordance with the guidance of the Court of Appeals, the class of beneficiaries is not readily identifiable because no benefits can be traced "with some accuracy" to any beneficiaries, and so there can be no "reasonable basis for confidence that the costs may be shifted with some precision to those benefitting"-but certainly not to 1,400,000 International members as being commonly benefitted.
Who desired the benefits from the settlement? Well, certainly Sadlowski did in spite of the fact that his counsel opposed it, because there was a new election in which he won the victory which he had sought originally. The circumstances do not matter as to whether they were hotly contested or not at this time. He, Sadlowski, was victorious. Undoubtedly, he benefitted. And since he was campaigning through his counsel all the way through the continuance of the processing of this action, as was shown to be the case by the evidence produced as a whole, it was Sadlowski's counsel's campaign activities which eventually became victorious.
As for any benefits which might be considered to be "common" to the other Districts, there are only fanciful assertions that all the 1,400,000 International members of the Union will be put on notice that election improprieties will not be tolerated-as if all 1,400,000 such members really were in need of such notice; and further, that the election of Sadlowski would "willy-nilly" have been to the common benefit of the 1,400,000 members-if that benefit was in fact needed, or even that the intervenor's election might not actually have been detrimental to any or all these International members.
What is uncontrovertedly obvious to me as a factfinder is that there is no evidence whatsoever that any District including District 31 was affected. If there had been any common benefit to the International or any other District, that evidence should have been presented in the case to make it manifest in order to base a judicial determination entitling the claimants to fees. Otherwise, the claimants required me as a factfinding judge to assume that their argument was a fact and not just a conclusion that the 1,400,000 International membership was commonly benefitted, and more so that the assumed common benefit was a reasonable basis for shifting the costs of the intervenor's campaign to the 1,400,000 International membership with "some precision to those benefitting". But there is no such factual persuasion of precision benefitting. Neither was there any factual persuasion of precision benefitting 126,000 members in District 31, because the claimants' activities were directed in the irrelevant financial path for procuring inadmissible evidence politically beneficial only to Sadlowski's potential eventual election. Even here if such character of irregularities required notice to the membership, there is no evidence of that.
Under these circumstances, it is impossible for me to trace "with some accuracy" any benefits bestowed upon any of the membership, and especially upon the International membership, as the "readily identifiable beneficiaries". Neither do the claimants' unproved assumption satisfy the dictates of the Court of Appeals as it reflects upon the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, et al., 421 U.S. 240, 265, n. 39, 95 S. Ct. 1612, 1626, n. 39, 44 L. Ed. 2d 141 (1975).
ATTORNEYS' FEES-TRADITIONAL RULE-COMMON BENEFIT
The traditional American rule is that attorneys' fees are not ordinarily recoverable by a successful litigant in the absence of statutory or contractual authorization. However, federal courts "in the exercise of their equitable powers, may award attorneys' fees when the interests of justice so require." Hall v. Cole, 412 U.S. 1, 4-6, 93 S. Ct. 1943, 1945-1946, 36 L. Ed. 2d 702 (1973). The inherent power to award such relief "is part of the original authority of the chancellor to do equity in a particular situation." Sprague v. Ticonic National Bank, 307 U.S. 161, 166, 59 S. Ct. 777, 779, 83 L. Ed. 1184 (1939); Hall v. Cole, supra, at page 5, 93 S. Ct. at page 1946.
Exceptions to the American rule, created by both the courts and Congress have developed in certain situations "in which overriding considerations indicate the need for such a recovery", such as where the "plaintiff's successful litigation confers "a substantial benefit on the members of an ascertainable class, and where the court's jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit makes possible an award that will operate to spread the costs proportionately among them.' " Hall v. Cole, supra, at page 5, 93 S. Ct. at page 1946; Mills v. Electric Auto-Lite Co., 396 U.S. 375, 393-394, 90 S. Ct. 616, 626, 24 L. Ed. 2d 593 (1970). In gauging the principles in Hall and Mills to the instant case, I find it impossible to extract from the evidence in this case as a whole any "substantial benefit on the members of an ascertainable class" bestowed by the claimants. Even with the election of Sadlowski as Directer, there is no evidence of whether the District 31 membership was better or worse off with Sadlowski as Director.
Initially this "common fund" or "common benefit" exception to the American rule emerged in situations where through litigation the successful plaintiff enhanced or preserved a fund for the benefit of a class of beneficiaries, since it would be unjust for those who benefitted from the plaintiff's efforts not to contribute to the attorneys' fees, either directly or from the fund or property itself. See Trustees v. Greenough, 105 U.S. 527, 531-537, 26 L. Ed. 1157 (1882).
The case law has developed since then so as to allow, for example, an award of attorneys' fees where a plaintiff sued for her own benefit, and her success entitled others to recover out of the same assets by operation of stare decisis, Sprague, supra, at page 166, 59 S. Ct. at page 779; where also a plaintiff produced by litigation a non-pecuniary benefit, such as where shareholders conferred a benefit on their corporation by proving a violation of securities' laws, Mills v. Electric Auto-Lite, supra ; and where a union member conferred a benefit on the union by vindication of his right of free speech guaranteed under the Labor Management-Reporting and Disclosure Act. Hall v. Cole, supra.
The underlying rationale for the award of attorneys' fees, or "fee-shifting" based on the common benefit theory, however, remains the same. That basis is the prevention of unjust enrichment, because "to allow the others to obtain full benefit from the plaintiffs' efforts without contributing equally to the litigation expenses would be to enrich the others unjustly at the plaintiff's expense." Mills, supra, at page 392, 90 S. Ct. at page 625.
With this rationale in mind in this case, what unjust enrichment accrued to the 34 other Districts and their membership? That the claimants argue that Sadlowski sits on the International Executive Board? So what would happen if he did not sit on the Executive Board? What difference did his sitting make? As the factfinder, I do not know. And the claimants' contention that I should conclude benefits either way could only be by surmise. Equitably, I cannot do this.
Since 29 other Districts (not filing complaints) did not need "to be put on notice that election improprieties will not be tolerated", how were these 29 Districts and their memberships bestowed "common benefits" and thereby derived "unjust enrichment" by anything the claimants did? For that matter, in addition to the memberships in the 29 Districts, what barest suspicion (let alone evidence) can be levelled at the memberships in the other 5 complaining Districts that their complaints were basically of such character with or worse than that of the intervenor's, and that accordingly they needed "to be put on notice that election improprieties will not be tolerated", and that the claimants' activities would produce for such memberships "unjust enrichment" if the claimants' awards were not shifted to them? And if so shifted, how do we separate them from all the other District memberships? All this is a matter purely for surmise and conjecture, and no factfinder can in good conscience make findings of fact on surmise and conjecture. No evidence whatsoever is here supporting any contention that all this is not surmise and conjecture.
On the other hand, neither would it be just to enrich the claimants at the expense of the full membership, or a part of the membership, if the claimants were neither the responsible processor of the litigation nor responsible for its successful outcome, as in this case the settlement was not brought about but rather opposed by Rauh who is now one of those claiming bestowal of benefits. Using conjecture only what if Rauh had been successful in obstructing the plaintiff's and defendant's stipulated settlement and final determination? Would the case have been required to go to trial and possibly not have been terminated until sometime in 1975?
Would the membership of District 31 have benefitted? Or would Sadlowski have been more benefitted because he had more time to campaign unnecessarily? Who would have benefitted? Since the settlement and final determination of the case was not brought about by the claimants, then the intervenor is no less a beneficiary than are the 1,400,000 members, if in fact they are; but the intervenor is almost exclusively the sole beneficiary at the expense of the Secretary of Labor who conducted the total investigative and legal processing and settling of the case. And even taking the proportion down to the smallest number of possible beneficiaries, there is no evidence in the case that the irregularities complained of by the intervenor were of such a level in his District 31 (or in any other District) as to require notice to just the District 31 members that such irregular election activities would not be tolerated.
The claimants rely heavily on Hall v. Cole, supra, where the Supreme Court affirmed an award of $ 5,500 in attorneys' fees to the respondent who was expelled from his union for deliberate and malicious vilification of union management and who subsequently regained his union membership under § 103 of the Labor Management-Reporting and Disclosure Act. The court held that the respondent's suit not only vindicated his own right of free speech guaranteed by the statute, but furthered the democratic interest of the union and its members as well. The Court reasoned by vindicating his own rights, the successful litigant dispelled the "chill" upon the rights of others. The Court, 412 U.S. at pages 8-9, 93 S. Ct. at pages 1947-1948, stated:
"Thus, as in Mills, reimbursement of respondent's attorneys' fees out of the union treasury simply shifts the costs of litigation to "the class that has benefitted from them and that would have had to pay them had it brought the suit.' "
The claimants argue that their efforts as well dispelled a similar chilling effect and promoted union democracy. While there can be no doubt that the respondent in Hall produced a common benefit for free speech for all members in the union solely through his litigation efforts, the claimants' legal efforts, on the other hand, produced nothing of substance or materiality, nothing that was not, in any event, repetitive or duplicative of the Secretary's intense and massive investigation. Sadlowski's counsel are not precluded from attorneys' fees simply because of Sadlowski's status as an intervenor and the Secretary's dominant enforcement role in this area, but the claimants are not entitled to a free ride on the Secretary's comprehensive accomplishment, without material input; and they are not entitled to compensation for redundant (even if intensive), and at the very best, marginal case work product.
The magistrate also relied on Wolf v. General Motors-United Auto Workers, Etc., 569 F.2d 1266, C.A.3, 1978. Here our Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court's denial of an application for attorneys' fees by counsel who represented certain auto employees in a suit to obtain supplemental unemployment benefits. When the benefits were disbursed by the administrative board at the proper time, the suit was dismissed on the merits as moot; and the attorneys' fees were denied because counsel failed to demonstrate a sufficient causal relationship between their efforts and the disbursal of the fund under the "common benefit exception". The Court said in the per curiam opinion:
"We are asked to determine that the efforts of appellants' counsel resulted in a "common benefit' to a discernible class. Because the facts of this case fall far outside the narrowly circumscribed common benefit exception to the general "American Rule' that attorney's fees are ordinarily not recoverable by a prevailing litigant in the absence of statutory authorization, (citing Alyeska, supra), we affirm." (at page 1267)
"The common benefit exception anticipates, and is necessarily preceded by, a proven causal relationship between the efforts of counsel and benefits allegedly derived therefrom." (at page 1268)