Bagwell v. International Union, United Mine Workers of America

Citation423 S.E.2d 349,244 Va. 463
Decision Date06 November 1992
Docket NumberNos. 910634,920299,s. 910634
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

William B. Poff (Clinton S. Morse; Frank K. Friedman; Woods, Rogers & Hazlegrove, on briefs), for appellant in No. 91034.

Andrew P. Miller (John A. Gibney, Jr.; James J. Vergara, Jr.; Shuford, Rubin, Gibney & Dunn; Vergara & Associates; Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, on brief), for appellees in No. 91034.

Amicus Curiae: Center on Nat. Labor Policy, Inc. (Michael S. Arif; Michael E. Avakian; Martin & Arif, on brief).

Andrew P. Miller (Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, on briefs), for appellants in No. 920299.

No brief or argument for appellees in No. 920299.

Amicus Curiae: John L. Bagwell, Special Comm'r. William B. Poff (Clinton S. Morse; Frank K. Friedman; Woods, Rogers & Hazlegrove, on brief).

Amicus Curiae: Virginia Chamber of Commerce. (W. Carter Younger; Dana L. Rust; Rodney A. Satterwhite; McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe, on brief).



In these consolidated appeals, the principal issue we address involves the validity and enforceability of certain contempt fines imposed by the trial court against International Union, United Mine Workers of America and International Union, United Mine Workers of America, District 28 (collectively, the Union) for the Union's violation of the court's injunction.


In early April 1989, the Union called a strike against Clinchfield Coal Company and Sea "B" Mining Company (collectively, the Company) after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement between the parties. Thereafter, the Company undertook to conduct its operations by using replacement workers.

On April 12, 1989, the Company filed a verified bill of complaint against the Union seeking to have the trial court enjoin the Union from engaging in certain alleged unlawful activities. On April 13, 1989, following an evidentiary hearing, the court enjoined the Union and its members from obstructing certain entrances to the Company's property, from throwing rocks and other objects at vehicles and persons engaged in the Company's operations, from placing objects designed to cause damage to vehicle tires upon any surface that might be used by vehicles engaged in the Company's operations, and from intimidating and threatening physical harm to persons engaged in the Company's operations and to members of their families. The court also limited the number of pickets at various locations. On April 21, 1989, the court amended and strengthened its injunction upon a finding that, notwithstanding the initial injunction, "serious incidents of mass picketing, roving picketing, violence, threats, intimidation, and property destruction have continued."

For the duration of the strike, the Union engaged in wholesale violations of the court's injunction. The court responded to these violations by entering a series of orders finding the Union guilty of civil contempt. In an effort to compel compliance with its injunction, the court established a prospective fine schedule. When violations persisted, fines were assessed against the Union in accordance with the previously established schedule.

On September 21, 1989, the court appointed special commissioners to collect the increasing, but unpaid, fines. John L. Bagwell, appellant in Record No. 910634, later was substituted as special commissioner to collect the fines.

The Union appealed eight contempt orders to the Court of Appeals, contending that the fines assessed were criminal sanctions imposed in a civil proceeding and thereby violative of certain constitutional guarantees. Five of the orders are involved in Record No. 910634, and the remaining three orders are involved in Record No. 920299.

Prior to oral argument in the Court of Appeals, the Union and the Company settled the underlying strike and their litigation. Thereafter, the Union and the Company moved the trial court to vacate all fines. The trial court vacated those fines that were payable to the Company. 1 The trial court, however, refused to vacate the fines payable to the Commonwealth and to Russell and Dickenson Counties. These fines are the subject of these appeals. In its reply briefs in the Court of Appeals, the Union asserted that the strike settlement mooted the subject fines.

While the first appeal (Record No. 910634) was pending in the Court of Appeals, but after oral argument, Bagwell petitioned to be made a party in the appeal or, in the alternative, to be permitted to file a brief amicus curiae. The Court of Appeals refused to allow Bagwell to intervene but permitted him to file an amicus curiae brief. Subsequently, the Court of Appeals ruled, in a two-to-one decision, that the fines were mooted by the settlement of the strike. United Mine Workers v. Clinchfield Coal Co., 12 Va.App. 123, 402 S.E.2d 899 (1991).

We awarded Bagwell an appeal in Record No. 910634. At the same time, we certified Record No. 920299 from the Court of Appeals and consolidated the two appeals.


The evidence of injunction violations is too voluminous for a detailed recitation. It consists of many days of testimony by approximately 260 witnesses and numerous exhibits. Significantly, the Union has not challenged the sufficiency of this evidence in these appeals.

In the early stages of the strike, the violations were largely of a nonviolent nature consisting mainly of mass picketing and sit-ins to block ingress to and egress from the Company's property. In the first contempt order, entered on May 18, 1989, the court found 72 separate violations of its injunction, only 15 of which were violent. 2 In that order, the court established its prospective fine schedule for future injunction violations. The schedule provided for fines of $100,000 for each violent violation and $20,000 for each nonviolent violation.

The court conducted a second contempt hearing on June 2, 1989. This hearing produced evidence of continued blockage of the Company's entrances and exits by mass picketing and sit-ins. By an order entered June 7, 1989, the Union again was held in contempt, and fines were imposed in accordance with the established fine schedule. These fines, totalling $2,465,000, were payable to the Commonwealth. The contempt order stated that "[i]t is the Court's intention that these fines are civil and coercive."

Following the second contempt order, the Union changed its strategy. The Union planned to delay and impede the Company's movement of coal by the use of slow-moving automobile convoys manned by Union members and out-of-state sympathizers. To support this effort, the Union opened "Camp Solidarity" as a place for the participants to congregate and organize the convoys. Approximately 1,000 persons would stay at the camp.

A multitude of violent acts accompanied this new strategy, including gunfire directed at coal truck drivers' vehicles. Consequently, on July 27, 1989, the court entered a third contempt order. In this order, the court found the Union guilty of 46 injunction violations and imposed fines totalling $4,465,000, of which $2,000,000 was ordered to be paid to the Commonwealth, $1,465,000 to Russell County, and $1,000,000 to Dickenson County. In its pronouncement from the bench following the third contempt hearing, the court stated, inter alia, the following:

[The court] find[s] that ... [the Union] and [its] members have engaged in acts of violence that are directly related to their picketing in this labor dispute and that they have been characterized by mass picketing and blocking of rights of ways, both public and private; the hurling of rocks and other missiles at vehicles; ... and ... have intimidated or attempted to intimidate by threats and by violence members of this community who are attempting to exercise their right to go to work and make a living under the Virginia law.


This court's injunction is designed to keep the peace here in Virginia and to be sure that ... the citizens of this state, in these communities, can live in peace, free from the acts of terror which have been committed upon this community.

Following the third contempt order, the court heard testimony from more than 60 witnesses concerning escalated violence. The record is replete with evidence of incidents of rock-throwing and the use of "jackrocks." 3 Coal truck drivers and Company personnel and members of their families were subjected to attacks and intimidation. Numerous vehicles were damaged by various devices. The record also discloses that Union officials took active roles in these unlawful activities.

Thus, on September 21, 1989, the Union again was found in contempt for 65 violent and 24 nonviolent violations of the injunction. Following the established fine schedule, the court fined the Union a total of $16,900,000 and directed that it be paid as follows: $6,000,000 to the Commonwealth, $4,500,000 to Russell County, and $3,000,000 to Dickenson County. The court also directed that the remainder, $3,400,000, be paid to the Company; however, this fine was vacated subsequently.

In its fifth contempt order, entered on October 9, 1989, the court found 69 additional violent violations of its injunction. The acts were similar to those previously described, to-wit: rock-throwing, jackrocking, intimidation, etc. The court, in accordance with the established fine schedule, assessed the Union an additional $6,900,000 in fines, of which $2,500,000 was made payable to the Commonwealth, $1,200,000 was made payable to Dickenson County, and $1,800,000 was made payable to Russell County. The court directed that $1,400,000 be paid to the Company; however, this fine was vacated subsequently.


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