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Carson v. Waterfront Com'n of New York Harbor

December 28, 1995

DONALD CARSON, APPELLANT

v.

WATERFRONT COMMISSION OF NEW YORK HARBOR; GERALD P. LALLY; INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN'S ASSOCIATION, ("ILA"); ATLANTIC COAST DISTRICT OF THE ILA; JOHN BOWERS; INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN'S ASSOCIATION LOCAL 1588



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. No. 94-cv-01594)

BEFORE: MANSMANN, COWEN and SEITZ, Circuit Judges

COWEN, Circuit Judge.

Argued November 28, 1995

Filed December 28, 1995)

This case presents a Supremacy Clause challenge to New Jersey's implementation of the Waterfront Commission Act of 1953, an interstate compact between New York and New Jersey aimed at eliminating racketeering and other pernicious activities in the Port of New York District. Appellant Donald Carson contends that Section(s) 8 of that Act conflicts with a 1984 amendment to the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. 29 U.S.C. Section(s) 504(d). Finding that the 1984 amendment effected no change in Carson's rights whatsoever, we hold that his preemption claim is barred by the Supreme Court's decision in De Veau v. Braisted, 363 U.S. 144, 80 S. Ct. 1146 (1960) (plurality opinion), which rejected a claim that Section(s) 8 conflicted with the pre-1984 version of Section(s) 504. We therefore will affirm the district court's order dismissing Carson's claims against the Waterfront Commission pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

I.

Donald Carson was an officer in the International Longshoremen's Association ("ILA") and two related entities when a jury in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey found him guilty of racketeering conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), and extortion conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section(s) 2 and 1951. Two days later, Donald Lally, the General Counsel to the Waterfront Commission ("Commission"), advised John Bowers, ILA's President, that Carson's continued employment after his conviction would place the union in violation of New Jersey's enactment of section 8 of the Waterfront Commission Act ("WCA"), N.J. Stat. Ann. Section(s) 32:23-80, *fn1 which forbids a union from operating as such in New Jersey if one of its officers has been "convicted" of certain crimes.

Bowers forwarded a copy of Lally's letter to Carson and advised him that in light of his conviction, he was suspended from his union positions. Several days later, the Commission, through Lally, advised Bowers that suspension of a convicted union officer was insufficient to comply with Section(s) 8 of the WCA. Accordingly, Bowers sent Carson another letter informing him that he was being "removed from all offices of the ILA and its affiliates and all fringe benefit funds." Letter from Bowers to Carson of 4/25/88, at 1. Carson appealed his criminal conviction, and we vacated the judgment. United States v. Carson, 969 F.2d 1480 (3d Cir. 1992). The indictment ultimately was dismissed.

Carson brought this suit against the Commission, Lally and various ILA officials. *fn2 His principal claim was that by enforcing 8 of the WCA, which required his removal upon the return of a guilty verdict, the defendants conspired to deprive him of wages to which he claims convicted-but-exonerated officials are entitled under the 1984 amendment to Section(s) 504 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"). Section 504(d) of the LMRDA requires unions to escrow the wages of an official "barred by virtue of [that] section" and to remit those wages to the official if he is ultimately exonerated. 29 U.S.C. Section(s) 504(d). Since the escrow provision does not take effect until there is a "conviction," which Section(s) 504(c) defines as the entry of a judgment of conviction (i.e., at sentencing), Carson alleged that the Commission's action in seeking and obtaining his removal based on the state-law interpretation of the term "conviction" in Section(s) 8 of the WCA (i.e., a guilty verdict) contravened the Supremacy Clause and was unlawful.

In granting the Commission's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the district court disagreed. Separating its analysis into two parts, the district court first looked to whether the definition of "conviction" in Section(s) 8 of the WCA contravened the pre-1984 version of Section(s) 504 of the LMRDA, which defined "conviction" as a judgment from which no further appeals could be taken. The district court noted initially that the Supreme Court in De Veau v. Braisted, 363 U.S. 144, 80 S. Ct. 1146 (1960) (plurality opinion), held that Section(s) 8 of the WCA was not preempted by the pre-1984 version of Section(s) 504 of the LMRDA. Then, relying on International Longshoremen's Ass'n v. Waterfront Commission, 642 F.2d 666 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 966, 102 S. Ct. 509 (1981), and Local 1804, International Longshoremen's Ass'n v. Waterfront Commission, 428 A.2d 1283 (N.J. 1981), the district court concluded that "[i]t has been judicially settled that section 504(c)'s pre-1984 definition of 'conviction' did not pre-empt the viability of section 8." J. App. at 91.

The district court then turned to the current version of Section(s) 504 of the LMRDA and determined that

[t]he present definition of "conviction" under section 504(c) reads closer to the original, practical thrust of section 8. The addition of section 504(d) has not imposed additional responsibilities upon the Commission or Lally. That section does not require the Waterfront Commission to establish and maintain an escrow account for the benefit of union officials. Therefore, neither the change of 504(c) nor the addition of 504(d) presents a significant departure from section 504 pre-1984 to invalidate section 8.

App. at 91-92. After holding that Lally, the Commission's General Counsel, was entitled to qualified immunity, the district court dismissed Carson's complaint against both the Commission and Lally. This appeal followed. Carson does not challenge the ...


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