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BEARDSLEY v. UNITED STATES DOL

October 27, 1992

WILLIAM E. BEARDSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM L. STANDISH

MEMORANDUM

 I

 This action arises under Section 504(a) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. § 504(a) (LMRDA). Plaintiff, William E. Beardsley, seeks a declaratory judgment that his plea of guilty to a charge of possession of cocaine, a Pennsylvania misdemeanor under 35 Pa.C.S. § 780-113(a)(16) and (b), and his subsequent sentence to one year "probation without verdict" pursuant to the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, 35 Pa.C.S. § 780-117, was not a "conviction of--violation of narcotic laws" within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. § 504 disqualifying him from serving as a business agent of a labor organization. In the alternative, plaintiff requests an exemption from the provision of Section 504 prohibiting him from serving as business agent of Local Union 449 of the AFL-CIO Steamfitters Union (Local 449). For reasons which follow, the court concludes that plaintiff has been "convicted of--violation of narcotic laws", and that his application for exemption from the prohibition of Section 504 is premature and should be denied.

  II

 The facts giving rise to plaintiff's claims in the present case are these:

 1. On July 4, 1991, plaintiff was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, a misdemeanor, under Section 35 Pa.C.S. §§ 780-113(a)(16) and 780-113(b). He pleaded guilty to the charge and, on October 29, 1991, was sentenced to a one-year period of "probation without verdict" under the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, 35 Pa.C.S. § 780-117.

 2. At the time of his arrest, plaintiff was serving a three-year term as president of Local 449, to which he had been elected in December, 1989.

 3. In January, 1992, plaintiff was appointed as business agent for Local 449. The business agent is a paid position, and the duties involve dispatching workers to contractors, soliciting work for the labor pool, arbitrating and filing grievances and occasionally enforcing contracts. The business agent does not collect union dues or handle finances.

 4. On January 29, 1992, John Pegula, District-Director of the Area Office of the Labor Standards of the U.S. Department of Labor, notified plaintiff that, as a result of his guilty plea and sentence, he could not serve in any prohibited capacity in any labor organization pursuant to Section 504.

 5. On February 7, 1992, plaintiff resigned his position as business agent of Local 449.

 6. Plaintiff seeks to run for the position of business agent in an election to be held in December, 1992.

 III

 It is beyond dispute that whether one has been "convicted" within the meaning of a federal statute is a question of federal, not state, law. Dickerson v. New Banner Institute, Inc., 460 U.S. 103, 111, 74 L. Ed. 2d 845, 103 S. Ct. 986 (1983). Plaintiff seeks a declaration pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 that "probation without verdict" under Pennsylvania law is not a "conviction" as contemplated in Section 504 of the LMRDA.

 In an analogous case, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed the issue with respect to a "conviction" under Iowa's deferred-judgment statute. Harmon v. Teamsters, Chauffeurs & Helpers L. 371, 832 F.2d 976 (7th Cir. 1987). The Harmon court first examined the policy behind Section 504, and then noted that, whatever else Iowa's deferred-judgment statute might be, it clearly was "an authoritative determination of ...


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