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McQuestion v. New Jersey Transit Rail Operations

filed: January 4, 1990.

RICHARD MCQUESTION & LOUIS A. HART
v.
NEW JERSEY TRANSIT RAIL OPERATIONS, INC.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, D.C. Civil Action Nos. 88-4037; 89-0660

Sloviter, Greenberg and Seitz, Circuit Judges.

Author: Seitz

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

Richard McQuestion and Louis Hart, appellants, appeal the order of the district court dismissing their petitions for review of adverse determinations by a division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board (the Board). We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (1982).

Appellants were discharged from employment with appellee, New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, Inc., (the railroad) an instrumentality of the State of New Jersey subject to the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (1982) (the Act). Each challenged his dismissal through in-house appeal procedures and, when these challenges failed, appellants' union filed petitions with the Board on their behalf, seeking to have their discharges set aside. See 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (j).*fn1

The two petitions were signed only by a union representative, but each indicated that it was submitted on behalf of one of the appellants.*fn2 In addition, appellants were present at the Board's hearings, and the proceedings dealt only with their individual grievances. See McQuestion v. New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, Inc., No. 88-4037, slip op. at 10 (D.N.J. May 12, 1989).

In submissions to the Board, the union representative asserted that there was no ratified collective bargaining agreement between the union and the railroad and that the action by the union in representing appellants should not be construed as acceptance of the Board's authority or acceptance of the unratified agreement. The Board determined that it was without jurisdiction in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement and dismissed appellants' petitions.

Appellants then filed in the district court, in their own names, petitions for review of the order of the Board. The railroad's amended answer and arguments to the district court asserted that the consolidated petitions should be dismissed because appellants lacked standing. The district court dismissed the petitions for want of "subject matter jurisdiction" based on two grounds: (1) it concluded that appellants had not been "parties" to the proceedings before the Board; (2) it found that as non-parties they could not obtain review of the Board's decisions under 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q).

At the outset, we think the district court incorrectly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Such jurisdiction is explicitly bestowed by 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q). Rather, we believe that the court really dismissed because of its conclusion that appellants lacked standing in the district court since they were not named petitioners before the Board. We turn to that issue.

Appellants contend that the district court erred in holding that they lacked standing in the district court. We thus are required to analyze the statutory provision governing district court review. Our review in cases of statutory construction is plenary. Chrysler Credit Corp. v. First National Bank and Trust Co., 746 F.2d 200, 202 (3d Cir. 1984).

Section 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q) contains the basis for judicial review of Board awards:

If any employee or group of employees, or any carrier, is aggrieved by the failure of any division of the Adjustment Board to make an award in a dispute referred to it, or is aggrieved by any of the terms of an award or by the failure of the division to include certain terms in such award, then such employee or group of employees or carrier may file in any United States district court . . . a petition for review of the division's order.

The statute embraces "any employee . . . aggrieved by the failure" of a division of the Board to make an award and authorizes "such employee" to file a petition for review in the district court. Thus, confining ourselves to the literal wording of the statute, the ...


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