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Us Airline Pilots Association v. U.S. Airways, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 30, 2013

U.S. AIRWAYS, INC., Defendant.


JOY FLOWERS CONTI, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction (ECF No. 17) filed by defendant U.S. Airways, Inc. ("U.S. Airways.") In support of this motion, U.S. Airways filed an initial brief (ECF No. 18), declarations (ECF Nos. 19 and 20), and a reply brief (ECF No. 28.) Plaintiff, U.S. Airline Pilots Association ("USAPA"), filed a brief in opposition to the motion (ECF No. 24), as well as a sur-reply brief (ECF No. 34.) USAPA's complaint (ECF No.1) asks this court to confirm an order issued by a five-member System Board of Adjustment ("System Board") and to compel U.S. Airways to adhere to the order. (ECF No.1 at 5.) The court held a hearing on U.S. Airways' motion to dismiss on September 26, 2013, at which time the court heard argument from the parties and gave its preliminary assessment. The matter being fully briefed, it is now ripe for disposition. Because there presently exists no justiciable case or controversy, U.S. Airways' motion to dismiss will be GRANTED, without prejudice to USAPA's ability to seek enforcement of the System Board's order should U.S. Airways violate it in the future.


USAPA is a private, unincorporated association operating as a labor association and is the certified collective bargaining representative of U.S. Airways' pilots and is a "representative" as defined by the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. §151, et seq. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 4.) U.S. Airways is a commercial airline with national and international operations, and is a "common carrier by air" subject to the RLA. (Id. ¶ 5.)

USAPA and U.S. Airways are parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), titled the "Transition Agreement, " which defines certain terms and conditions of employment for U.S. Airways' pilots. (Id. ¶ 1 & n.1 and ¶ 7.) Section X of the CBA requires the arbitration of disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the CBA. (Id. ¶ 8.) The CBA requires that arbitration be before a five-member System Board of Adjustment ("System Board") comprised of two members appointed by U.S. Airways, two members appointed by USAPA, and one neutral arbitrator. (Id.)

Pursuant to the CBA, in March and April 2009, the parties presented a dispute to the System Board concerning U.S. Airways' purported failure to "maintain minimum utilization rates"[1]. (Id. ¶ 9.) On October 16, 2009, the System Board granted USAPA's grievance and remanded the matter to the parties to determine the appropriate remedy. (Id.; and ECF No. 1-3.) The parties were unable to agree upon a remedy provision and returned to the System Board for hearings regarding the extent of damages and the appropriate manner by which the damages should be distributed to the pilots. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 10-11.) These hearings resulted in a May 30, 2012 Supplementary Opinion (the "Supplementary Opinion"), which awarded damages to certain pilots in the total sum of $999, 250.00. (Id. ¶ 12.) In addition, the Supplementary Opinion ordered U.S. Airways to cease and desist from calculating minimum utilization rates using a rolling twelve-month average. (Id. ¶ 14; ECF No. 1-4 at 12.) USAPA attached to its complaint copies of the CBA (ECF No. 1-2), and the System Board's October 2009 opinion (ECF No. 1-3) and Supplementary Opinion (ECF No. 1-4), each of which is integral to the allegations of the complaint.

USAPA alleges in its complaint that U.S. Airways "refused... to comply with the... Supplementary Opinion, in that it has failed to cease and desist from engaging in the practices that led to its failure to maintain minimum utilization rates." (ECF No. 1 ¶ 14.) The complaint seeks an order from this court "confirming" the Supplementary Opinion and "compelling U.S. Airways to abide by" its terms. (Id. at 5.) In other words, USAPA contends in its complaint that U.S. Airways continues to calculate minimum utilization rates using a rolling twelve-month average, and asks this court to force U.S. Airways to instead calculate those rates on a monthly basis. In its briefing in opposition to U.S. Airways' motion to dismiss, however, USAPA repeatedly and unequivocally states that U.S. Airways has not violated the terms of the Supplementary Opinion. (ECF No. 26 at 11, 12; ECF No. 34 at 8-9.) In fact, USAPA indicates that it will amend its complaint, if necessary, to clarify that it is not seeking any remedies based on past or current violations of the Supplementary Opinion. (ECF No. 26 at 13.) USAP A reiterated this position at oral argument, confirming for the court that it does not allege and has no evidence to suggest that U.S. Airways has violated any term of the Supplementary Opinion.


A motion filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) challenges a federal court's "very power to hear the case." Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n , 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). The burden of establishing jurisdiction lies with the party seeking to invoke the court's power. Id .; Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc. , 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991).

A Rule 12 (b)(1) motion to dismiss may raise a facial or a factual challenge to the court's jurisdiction. Mortensen , 549 F.2d at 891; see Gould Electronics, Inc. v. U.S. , 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000). A facial challenge alleges that the complaint suffers from a technical defect in that its allegations do not sufficiently illustrate the court's jurisdiction. 5A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (2d ed. 1990). By comparison, a factual challenge contends that a substantive defect prevents the court from having subject-matter jurisdiction over a dispute, regardless of what allegations are made in the complaint. Id . In considering a facial attack, a court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and may not consider evidence beyond the allegations of the complaint. Petruska v. Gannon Univ. , 462 F.3d 294, 302 n.3 (3d Cir. 2006). But if the attack is factual, no presumptive truthfulness attaches to the complaint's allegations and the court is free to weigh the evidence, including evidence outside of the complaint, to determine whether it has the inherent power to hear the case. Mortensen , 549 F.2d at 891.

Article III, § 2, of the United States Constitution restricts the federal "judicial Power" to the resolution of "Cases" and "Controversies." U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. Federal courts enforce the case-or-controversy requirement through various justiciability doctrines, including standing, ripeness, mootness, and the prohibition on advisory opinions. Toll Bros., Inc. v. Twp. of Readington , 555 F.3d 131, 137 (3d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted); see, e.g., DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno , 547 U.S. 332 (2006); The Pitt News v. Fisher , 215 F.3d 354, 359 (3d Cir. 2000). As a whole, these doctrines recognize that Article III requires "antagonism" between the parties and "concreteness" of the dispute between them. State of New Jersey, Dept. of Envtl. Prot. and Energy v. Heldor Indus., Inc. , 989 F.2d 702, 706 (3d Cir. 1993).

In order to have Article III standing, a plaintiff must have: (1) suffered an injury-in-fact; (2) that is fairly traceable to defendant's challenged actions; and (3) that is likely redressable by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). The United States Supreme Court in Lujan defined the injury-in-fact requirement as "an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized... and (b) actual or imminent, ' not conjectural' or hypothetical.'" Id., at 560. An alleged injury must be "certainly impending' to constitute injury in fact." Whitmore v. Arkansas , 495 U.S. 149, 158 (1990) (citing Babbitt v. Farm Workers , 442 U.S. 289, 298 (1979)). The "underlying purpose of the imminence requirement is to ensure that the court in which suit is brought does not render an advisory opinion in a case in which no injury would have occurred at all.'" Animal Legal Def. Fund, Inc. v. Espy , 23 F.3d 496, 500 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (quoting Lujan , 504 U.S. at 564 n.2). Federal courts are without power to give opinions that do no more than decide abstract, hypothetical or contingent questions. Rhone-Poulenc Surfactants and Specialties, L.P. v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue , 249 F.3d 175, 182 (3d Cir. 2001).


U.S. Airways' motion to dismiss asks whether a federal district court has the power to confirm summarily an arbitration award issued by a system board of adjustment pursuant to the RLA. The court answers that question in the negative because without a party ...

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