683 F.2d 1038 (7th Cir. 1982), 82-1064, Pratte v. N. L. R. B.

Docket Nº:82-1064.
Citation:683 F.2d 1038
Party Name:Lorraine PRATTE, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:July 08, 1982
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 1038

683 F.2d 1038 (7th Cir. 1982)

Lorraine PRATTE, Plaintiff-Appellee,


NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 82-1064.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 8, 1982

Argued May 13, 1982.

Page 1039

Richard F. Watt, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellee.

Terry G. Harn, Asst. U. S. Atty., Peoria, Ill., for defendants-appellants.

Before PELL, Circuit Judge, DAVIS, Judge, [*] and WOOD, Circuit Judge.

PELL, Circuit Judge.

The Government challenges the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction ordering the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hire Lorraine Pratte as a law clerk-trainee in its Chicago Regional Office. The propriety of the injunction turns on whether the plaintiff showed a likelihood of success on the merits of her claim that the Government should be estopped from revoking her appointment.


Lorraine Pratte is a 1981 graduate of Harvard Law School. She decided to pursue a career in labor law and, in September, 1980, sought a position with the NLRB. She believed that working for the agency would be the best way to gain experience and early responsibility in her chosen area of legal specialization.

The plaintiff's choice was to work for the NLRB in Washington, D. C. On January 15, 1981, the NLRB offered Pratte a position in the Chicago Regional Office, assuring her that she might have the opportunity to transfer to the Appellate Division in Washington, D. C. after working two or three years in Chicago. Pratte was given one day to accept or reject the NLRB's offer. She accepted, turning down another firm offer of employment and ceasing to pursue other job prospects.

One week later, the NLRB informed Pratte that it could not honor its firm hiring commitment because of President Reagan's hiring freeze. Forty-seven persons other than Pratte received similar notification.

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The plaintiff resumed the job-hunting process. On March 10, 1981, an NLRB official phoned Pratte and told her that the Office of Management and Budget had informed the agency that the money required to hire Pratte and others in her situation would be forthcoming. This conversation was confirmed by a letter dated March 17, 1981, in which the NLRB again offered Pratte employment and indicated that she might be able to report for work before October 5, 1981 if the budget so permitted.

Pratte subsequently took and passed the District of Columbia bar examination, believing that this gave her maximum flexibility in working for the NLRB at any location and was consistent with her desire eventually to work in the Washington, D. C. area. The NLRB confirmed Pratte's appointment in two letters dated August 5 and August 31, 1981. Neither letter made any reference to the NLRB's budget. On September 11, 1981, the plaintiff purchased an automobile and drove to Chicago.

Several relevant events occurred on September 29, 1981. First, the NLRB told Pratte to report for work on October 5, 1981. Second, the plaintiff signed a lease for an apartment in Chicago. Third, that evening an NLRB official phoned the plaintiff and told her that her appointment had again been revoked because of President Reagan's announcement on September 24, 1981, that he would seek new budget reductions for selected federal agencies. The revocation was confirmed by a letter Pratte received the following day.

Pratte found herself in Chicago with a lease and a car and no job. Because she had not taken the Illinois bar examination, her employment prospects in Chicago were limited. Pratte obtained temporary employment as a legal assistant in October, 1981, and subsequently, a full-time job doing legal research. She filed the instant suit on November 10, 1981. Following the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction, Pratte terminated her research job and reported to work at the NLRB.


At the outset, we recognize with sympathy the situation in which Lorraine Pratte was placed as a result of the uncertainties of the federal budget and the attempts of the NLRB to anticipate and meet the proposed funding cuts even though the factors which caused the situation were brought about largely by events beyond the control of the hiring agency.

Turning to the legal issue before this court, we note that the grant of a preliminary injunction is generally reviewable only for an abuse of discretion. E.g., Reinders Brothers, Inc. v. Rain Bird Eastern Sales Corp., 627 F.2d 44, 49 (7th Cir. 1980); Sangmeister v. Woodard, 565 F.2d 460, 464-65 (7th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 939, 98 S.Ct. 1516, 55 L.Ed.2d 535 (1978). As Judge Aldisert stated in United States Steel Corp. v. Fraternal Association of Steelhaulers, 431 F.2d 1046 (3d Cir. 1970):

This limited review is necessitated because the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction is almost always based on an abbreviated set of facts, requiring a delicate balancing of the probabilities of ultimate success at final hearing with the consequences of immediate irreparable injury which could possibly flow from the denial of preliminary relief. Weighing these considerations is the responsibility of the district judge; only a clear abuse of his discretion will justify appellate...

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