VESTAL v. HOFFA Civ. A. Nos. 6081, 6138.
329 F.Supp. 801 (1971)
Don VESTAL et al. v. James R. HOFFA et al. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA et al. v. Don VESTAL et al.
United States District Court, M. D. Tennessee, Nashville Division.
June 11, 1971.
Edward C. White, Nashville, Tenn., for plaintiffs and defendants Don Vestal and others.
David Previant, Milwaukee, Wis., for defendant James R. Hoffa and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen, and Helpers of America.
Cecil D. Branstetter, Carrol D. Kilgore, Nashville, Tenn., for defendant International Brotherhood of Teamsters etc. and Fitzsimmons, Ellis and Webb.
Fyke Farmer, Nashville, Tenn., for defendant Wingo.
Edward W. Penshorn, San Antonio, Tex., for defendant Shafer.
L. N. D. Wells, Jr., Dallas, Tex., for defendant Miller.
William N. Ozier, Russell F. Morris, Jr., Bass, Berry & Sims, Olin White, Joseph Martin, Robert H. Cowan, Charles L. Cornelius, Jr., Nashville, Tenn., for intervening petitioners.
MORTON, District Judge.
In Civil Action No. 6081, commenced on March 11, 1971, plaintiffs Don Vestal, John B. Wells, Price Sain, Otto York, Jackie Newell, J. S. Litchford, Robert Hill and Worthy Babb bring suit against James R. Hoffa, Frank E. Fitzsimmons, Murray W. Miller, as Director of the Southern Conference of Teamsters, and as Fourth Vice President of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen, and Helpers of America (hereinafter referred to as Teamsters International), Raymond Shafer, as an International Organizer for Teamsters International, Earl Wingo, James Mathis, William L. Ellis, Teamsters International, the Southern Conference of Teamsters, Joint Council #87 of Teamsters International, and Sam Webb.
An Amended Complaint was filed on March 22, 1971. A Second Amended Complaint and a First Supplemental Complaint were filed on May 5, 1971. While alleging numerous violations of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., the plaintiffs' basic contentions are that Teamsters International has attempted to impose a trusteeship upon Teamsters Local Union 327 for an unlawful purpose, and without complying with the constitution of Teamsters International.
In Civil Action No. 6138, commenced on April 26, 1971, Teamsters International, Local 327, by authority and direction of the appointed trustee, W. C. Smith, and W. C. Smith, as Trustee of Local 327, bring suit against Don Vestal, Augustus G. Farmer, and Gerald B. Vestal. The basic contention of the plaintiffs in this action is that these defendants have refused to recognize W. C. Smith's authority as Trustee of Local 327, have failed and refused to turn over property and records to him belonging to Local 327, and have continued to assert the rights, and to attempt to exercise the powers, of officials of Local 327.
The two actions were consolidated by consent and a final hearing was held on May 13, 1971. At that time the plaintiffs in Civil Action No. 6081 (hereinafter referred to as the original plaintiffs) took a voluntary nonsuit as to defendants Joint Council #87 and the Southern Conference of Teamsters. The Court also granted motion to dismiss as to defendants Hoffa, Miller, Shafer, Webb, and Fitzsimmons due to insufficiency of service of process and the resulting lack of personal jurisdiction over those defendants. The only defendants then remaining in Civil Action No. 6081 were Teamsters International, Wingo, Ellis and Mathis.
Teamsters International has never been properly served as required by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Teamsters International was served in the same manner and under the same purported authority, T.C.A. 20-235, 238, as those defendants who were dismissed due to insufficiency of service of process. T.C.A. 20-235, 238 provides as follows:
The original plaintiffs attempted service on defendant Teamsters International in Washington, D. C. through the U. S. Marshal's office. Even though the Marshal's return had not been made as of the date of trial, the Court specifically requested that counsel for the original plaintiffs present argument as to the sufficiency of such a return as a substitute for the affidavit required by T.C.A. 20-238, supra. Apparently conceding the insufficiency of such a substitute, counsel for the original plaintiffs requested that time be granted to obtain the affidavit of the officer making service. Such a request at trial was deemed to come too late.
One of the original plaintiffs' main contentions is that the trusteeship was not imposed in compliance with the requirements of the constitution of Teamsters International and is therefore illegal and invalid under § 302 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. 29 U.S.C. § 462. The original plaintiffs further contend that the trusteeship is illegal and invalid because it was not imposed for any of the lawful reasons set forth by § 302, supra, which provides:
Regarding these issues, the Court's jurisdiction is based upon § 304 of the L. M.R.D.A. (hereinafter alternatively referred to as the Act), 29 U.S.C. § 464, which provides:
As the above section grants jurisdiction to a district court over a labor organization, but not an individual, this Court finds that no cause of action is stated by the original plaintiffs under this section as against the individual defendants, and that this section can confer jurisdiction on this Court only for the purpose of injunctive relief regarding Teamsters International's actions in this district.
In considering the appropriateness of such relief, the Court shall attempt to further the policy and accomplish the purposes for which the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, as amended, was enacted. In order to do so a closer analysis of the Act and its legislative history is necessary.
Section 2 of the L.M.R.D.A., 29 U.S.C. § 401, declares the legislative findings, purposes, and policy upon which the Act was based. In particular subparagraph 2(a) provides:
Title III of the Act, which regulates the area of trusteeships, clearly indicates that Congress intended, however, that the right of employees to choose their own representatives would remain subject to suspension through the imposition of trusteeship by a parent labor organization upon a subordinate labor organization. It appears from the legislative history of the Act that restrictions were placed on such trusteeships due to widespread flagrant abuse of the device.
Generally, the same contentions and allegations are made as defenses in Civil Action No. 6138 by Mr. Vestal as are made in the original plaintiffs' Second Amended and First Supplemental Complaint in Civil Action No. 6081. In essence,
As shall hereinafter appear, these allegations need not be considered with regard to the disposition of either of these lawsuits insofar as Teamsters International is concerned. Section 302 of the L.M.R.D.A., supra, sets forth the lawful purposes for which a subordinate body of a labor organization, such as Local 327, may be placed in trusteeship by the superior body. More important to the determination of the validity of the present trusteeship, § 302 requires that such "[t]rusteeships shall be established and administered by a labor organization over a subordinate body only in accordance with the constitution and bylaws of the organization which has assumed trusteeship * * *." (Emphasis supplied.) L.M.R.D.A., § 302 supra.
The determination of whether or not there has been compliance with the constitution of Teamsters International is also necessary before the trusteeship can be presumed valid under § 304(c) of the L.M.R.D.A., supra. It is contended on behalf of Mr. Vestal, both as a plaintiff and as a defendant, that the constitution of Teamsters International permits an emergency trusteeship to be invoked solely upon the order of the General President of Teamsters International, and that no other official of that body can be delegated that authority. Article VI, Sec. 5, of the Constitution of Teamsters International provides:
The section clearly indicates that the authority to invoke a trusteeship upon a local union is solely vested in the General President. It is conceded on behalf of Teamsters International that in the instant
Article VI, Section 2(a) of the International Constitution provides that the "General President shall have authority to interpret the Constitution and laws of the International Union and to decide all questions of law thereunder between meetings of the General Executive Board * * *." The delegation was made at the Executive Board Meeting and therefore Mr. Hoffa was not acting within the ambit of the above section at that meeting. Article IX, Section 1, however, provides in relevant part:
The purported delegation of the "duties and functions" of the General President to the General Vice President was upon motion by Vice President Flynn to the Executive Board and was approved unanimously, including the expression that such delegation was in accordance with the Executive Board's interpretation of the International Constitution. Minutes, supra, at 8.
Counsel for Teamsters International has contended that this interpretation was proper, under the authority conferred by the above-quoted section of the International Constitution, and that this interpretation should not be disturbed by the court in the present case. Further contention is made on behalf of Teamsters International that this delegation was approved by all of the Joint Councils of Teamsters International, including Joint Council #87 with which Local 327 is affiliated, and this serves to ratify the interpretation made in making the delegation, or, at least, to lend weight to its correctness. There does not appear to be any provision for such a "ratification" in the Constitution of Teamsters International.
The relevant case authority indicates a judicial reluctance, but not a refusal, to enter the realm of construction and interpretation of constitutions of labor organizations. In Communications Workers of America v. N.L.R.B., 215 F.2d 835, 838 (2d Cir. 1954), the Court stated:
In International Association of Machinists, et al. v. Friedman, 102 U.S.App.
In English v. Cunningham, 108 U.S. App.D.C. 365, 367, 282 F.2d 848, 850 (1960), the Court stated that it deemed applicable the principle, "that courts will accept the correctness of an interpretation fairly placed on union rules by the union's authorized officials."
The case which is most in point to the present discussion, however, is Vestal v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 245 F.Supp. 623 (M.D.Tenn. 1965). There the Honorable William E. Miller was faced with an action in which Don Vestal, as President and Business Manager of Local 327, sought to prevent: (1) a mail referendum of only the freighters who were members of Local 327, regarding the issuance of a separate charter to that group, and (2) the subsequent issuance to that group of a separate charter on the basis of any such referendum.
The General President of Teamsters International had determined that such a referendum was proper under the International Constitution. His interpretation of the constitution was appealed to the General Executive Board and was affirmed by that body. With this background the Court stated:
The Court found the interpretation unreasonable, declared the referendum null and void, and enjoined the defendants from taking any steps to effectuate the issuance of the separate charter on the basis of the referendum. This Court finds that the same standard of review is applicable in the instant case and the interpretations made by the officials of Teamsters International will be so considered.
It now becomes important to define the areas to be considered by the Court in order to dispose of the matters pending. This Court finds that it is unnecessary and improper to determine whether the interpretation of Article IX, Section 2, of the International Constitution as permitting the delegation to the General Vice President of each and every duty, function, power, and element of discretion granted to the General President by the International Constitution was reasonable. This Court shall determine only whether or not the constitution authorized a delegation of the authority, judgment, and discretion involved in invoking an emergency trusteeship over a local union, the appointment of a panel to conduct a hearing, and the decision as to whether or not the trusteeship should be continued as required by Article VI, Section 5(a), supra. As previously emphasized, this section vests the General President solely with the authority to exercise his personal judgment in invoking a trusteeship and appointing a panel to conduct a hearing. The section further requires that the decision as to whether or not the trusteeship should be continued be "* * * made by the General President himself." It is conceded on behalf of Teamsters International that the decision to continue the trusteeship was made by the General Vice President rather than the General President, but reliance is again placed upon the attempted delegation in toto of all of the duties and functions of the General President, with the inherent delegation of all requisite powers, to the General Vice President.
In the face of such specific, unambiguous language requiring the personal participation of the General
These determinations are not sufficient, however, to resolve the questions concerning Teamsters International's compliance with its own constitution in the imposition and continuance of the subject trusteeship. Article VI, Section 5(a), as set out supra, contains the following provision:
While not raised as an issue by the parties, the Court has considered the possibility that the General Executive Board has modified these regulations of the International Constitution so as to permit the General Vice President to exercise the powers necessary to impose and continue a trusteeship. All of the arguments and theories of Teamsters International have indicated that such a modification was felt to be unnecessary. No proof was submitted to this Court that the Executive Board has ever considered the possibility of such a modification, much less made one. The Court is not willing to, and shall not, presume to assume what course the General Executive Board would take upon consideration of this possibility. The Court does not determine whether or not such an attempted modification would be "for the purpose of assuring compliance with any applicable law," or would be an unauthorized attempt to amend the constitution.
For the above reasons this Court finds that Teamsters International has failed to comply with the provisions of its own constitution in the imposition of an emergency trusteeship upon Local 327, in the appointment of a panel to conduct the required hearing, or in the decision to continue the trusteeship. For these reasons the trusteeship is deemed void, invalid, and unlawful under § 302 of the L.M.R.D.A., supra, and its continuance is hereby enjoined pursuant to this Court's jurisdiction under § 304 of that Act, supra. The relief prayed for in Civil Action No. 6138 is accordingly denied.
Only the claims for relief by the original plaintiffs as against defendants Wingo, Ellis, and Mathis remain. Counsel for the original plaintiffs clearly indicated at trial that no damages were sought as against these defendants. Therefore, only the propriety of injunctive relief is before the Court as to these defendants.
As to defendant Wingo, evidence has been introduced which indicates that this defendant has consistently and vigorously sought the imposition of trusteeship upon Local 327. This defendant admits, indeed asserts, these activities. The critical proof necessary to demonstrate that he has been involved in a conspiracy, or has attempted as an individual to deprive any member of Local 327 of any right protected or created by the L.M.R.D.A., supra, has not, however, been forthcoming. Injunctive relief as to this defendant is denied.
As to defendant Mathis, uncontroverted proof has been introduced to show that he was detected in the Union Hall of Local 327 on Sunday, March 7, 1971, by a security officer for the burglar alarm company. It is also uncontroverted
The allegations regarding defendant Ellis are numerous and will be considered in the order in which they are raised in the Second Amended, and First Supplemental Complaints. Paragraph 11 of the Second Amended Complaint alleges that defendant Ellis violated Titles I, V and VI of 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. These violations are alleged to have occurred when: (1) Mr. Ellis allegedly "attempted to take control of the Local Union newspaper in violation of the bylaws of the Local Union for the purpose of giving employees, who were attempting to extort the public and give the Local bad publicity, and to give grounds for the Local to be put under trusteeship"; and (2) "Mr. Ellis furnished the defendant, Mathis, with keys to the Union Hall for the purpose of shooting up the offices, and then told the police that Mr. Mathis was authorized to be in the Union Hall at 10:15 P.M. on Sunday, March 7, 1971." No proof has been introduced which would tend to support the first allegation. As to the second allegation, the evidence does not indicate that Mr. Mathis did the shooting as alleged, or that Mr. Ellis gave him the keys to the building for that purpose.
Paragraph 12 of the Second Amended Complaint alleges that Mr. Ellis cooperated with an International Audit in making "pictures of books and records, not only of the Local Union, but of the Credit Union records and trust fund records * * * in violation of Titles III and V of 29 U.S.C. § 401, et seq." The Court is of the opinion that this allegation fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Title III, and that the proof does not establish a violation of Title V. In addition, the plaintiffs, having failed to obtain the requisite leave of court as provided by 29 U.S.C. § 501(b),
Paragraph 4 of the First Supplemental Complaint alleges that on the night of April 15, 1971, after defendant Ellis telephoned threats to Mr. Vestal, defendant Ellis and three companions drove to the home of Don Vestal. Upon arriving, Ellis and his companions are alleged to have fired numerous bullets into Vestal's home. Ellis is alleged to have thereby violated Title I of the Act, and 29 U.S.C. § 530. From the facts and evidence introduced on behalf of the original plaintiffs, it appears to the Court that the alleged shooting did in fact take place, and that shots were fired from the car in which Ellis was driving, and into it from the direction of Vestal's house.
It further appears to the Court that this shooting took place after Mr. Vestal had fired Mr. Ellis as a Business Agent for Local 327. The interpretation of this incident in the light most favorable to the original plaintiffs is insufficient to state a cause of action under Title I, the "bill of rights" portion of the L.M.R. D.A., supra. Section 610 of the L.M.R. D.A., 29 U.S.C. § 530, provides as follows:
There has been no allegation and no proof as to any right afforded Vestal under this Act which Ellis' wrongful conduct was intended to prejudice or prejudiced in fact. The testimony submitted on behalf of the original plaintiffs regarding this incident more clearly establishes personal resentment against Vestal as the reason for the shooting. Viewed from the point of view of defendant Ellis, any firing from his car was in response to shots fired at him. This view was expressed to the Court by witnesses presented on behalf of the original plaintiffs, since Mr. Ellis did not testify or call any witnesses on his own behalf. As proceedings arising out of this shooting are now pending on the state court level, this Court shall not make unnecessary determinations when the incident has not been shown to be material to the present case.
Paragraph 5 of the First Supplemental Complaint alleges that the automobile used by defendant Ellis, which is the property of Local 327, was replevined from the city auto pound on April 16, 1971, the day following the shooting. It is further alleged that examination of the automobile revealed checks, totaling $1,735.25, which belonged to the Local Union, and had already been received at the Local Union offices and entered on the books of the Local Union. The proof has supported this allegation to that extent, but it is further alleged that Mr. Ellis had absconded. The trusteeship was not imposed until April 19, 1971. At the time the automobile was replevined Mr. Ellis was still the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 327. His silence leaves his possession of the checks unexplained. The proof does not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Ellis had possession of these checks for an unlawful purpose. It is contended, however, that Mr. Ellis has failed "to hold its [Local 327's] money and property solely for the benefit of the organization and its members and to manage, invest, and expend the same in accordance with its constitution and bylaws and any resolutions of the governing bodies adopted thereunder * * *." Sec. 501, L.M.R.D.A., 29 U.S.C. § 501. The requisite leave to make such complaint was granted by the Court by its order permitting the filing of the First Supplemental Complaint. 29 U.S.C. § 501(b), supra. Sec. 3, Paragraph 5, of the "BY-LAWS" of Local Union 327 provides:
No other provision appears to have been made in the By-laws of the Local regarding the disposition of funds received by the Secretary-Treasurer on behalf of Local 327. No further evidence appears to have been submitted which would be relevant to this issue. It does not appear that Mr. Ellis has been shown to have violated 29 U.S.C. § 501, supra. It is as reasonable to speculate that Mr. Ellis had taken the checks to deposit as it is to draw any other inference.
For the above-stated reasons, the prayer for injunctive relief as to defendant Ellis is denied.
An order in conformity with this Memorandum shall be filed.
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