Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America AFL-CIO-CLC (Dist. 15) (Dist. 31), AFL-CIO-CLC

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
Writing for the CourtBefore VAN DUSEN and ALDISERT, Circuit Judges, and BROTMAN; VAN DUSEN; ALDISERT
Citation554 F.2d 586
Parties95 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2178, 51 A.L.R.Fed. 599, 81 Lab.Cas. P 13,182 Peter J. BRENNAN, Secretary of Labor, United States Dept. of Labor, Edward Sadlowski, Intervenor Plaintiff, Anthony Tomko, Intervenor Plaintiff, v. UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA(DISTRICT 15) (DISTRICT 31). Appeal of Edward SADLOWSKI, Intervenor above named, et al.
Decision Date20 April 1977
Docket NumberNo. 76-1169,AFL-CIO-CLC

Page 586

554 F.2d 586
95 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2178, 51 A.L.R.Fed. 599,
81 Lab.Cas. P 13,182
Peter J. BRENNAN, Secretary of Labor, United States Dept. of
Labor, Edward Sadlowski, Intervenor Plaintiff,
Anthony Tomko, Intervenor Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA AFL-CIO-CLC (DISTRICT 15)
(DISTRICT 31).
Appeal of Edward SADLOWSKI, Intervenor above named, et al.
No. 76-1169.
United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.
Argued Nov. 19, 1976.
Decided April 20, 1977.

Page 588

John W. Douglas and C. Michael Buxton, Covington & Burling, Washington, D. C., for appellant-intervenor plaintiff Sadlowski.

Kenneth J. Yablonski, Washington, Pa., for appellants.

Page 589

Robert M. Weinberg and Michael H. Gottesman, Bredhoff, Cushman, Gottesman & Cohen, Washington, D. C., James D. English, Pittsburgh, Pa., for appellee.

Edwin E. Huddleson, III, Civil Div., U. S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for Secretary of Labor, U. S. Department of Labor.

Before VAN DUSEN and ALDISERT, Circuit Judges, and BROTMAN, District Judge. *

OPINION OF THE COURT

VAN DUSEN, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a district court order, arising out of an action brought by the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) under Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 481 et seq., ** to set aside an election for district director of District 31 of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA or Union). In this election, Edward Sadlowski, the intervenor-plaintiff, was narrowly defeated allegedly due to voting irregularities which violated the LMRDA. After settlement was reached, a new election was held, which Sadlowski won by a substantial margin. The present appeal concerns the district court denial of intervenor-plaintiff's application for attorneys' fees and expenses incurred in the process of protesting and assisting the Secretary in attacking LMRDA violations.

This appeal presents important problems in the administration of Title IV of the LMRDA. The district court held that a defeated candidate for union office who intervenes in an action brought by the Secretary of Labor to avoid an election is precluded by the statute from recovering an award of attorneys' fees against the union, and that even if there is no statutory preclusion such an intervenor may not recover attorneys' fees under the "common benefit" doctrine for his actions in complaining to the Secretary, participating in litigation, shaping a settlement, and helping to police a rerun election. 1 The Secretary takes no position on the district court denial of attorneys' fees.

Disagreeing with the district court as to both statutory preclusion and "common benefit," we will reverse this district court order and remand for further consideration of this record in the light of the applicable legal principles and for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. HISTORY OF THE CASE

As noted below at pages 591, 601, and 604, this appeal is before the court on a motion to dismiss in which defendant requests that the application for attorneys' fees "be dismissed on its face" (see page 604 below), without regard to the actual truth of (1) the allegations in the application, and (2) the statements in the other record documents, such as depositions. We emphasize that we are not passing on the truth of the statements in the record or on the character of the intervening plaintiffs, as opposed to that of the high-ranking officers of the union, but we are required, under the posture of the case as it existed at the time of

Page 590

the district court order from which the appeal was taken, to take all well-pleaded allegations in the record as true for purposes of this appeal and to construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs (see page 604). These record facts are important in the determination of whether the district court was justified in rejecting the application for attorneys' fees as a matter of law, rather than making its decision as a matter of discretion in the light of the record facts before it.

On February 13, 1973, the USWA held an election for the position of district director of its District 31. That unit, with approximately 300 locals and 130,000 members in Illinois and Indiana, is the largest district in the Union. This election for district director was the first to be contested in nearly twenty-five years.

The candidates were Edward Sadlowski and Samuel Evett, the personally chosen successor to the district's long-time director, who was retiring after thirty years in office. Evett, in the words of then USWA President I. W. Abel, was the candidate of the Union's "official family." 2 Abel explained that the "official family" was composed of incumbent district directors and the officers of the International Union. The benefits of "official family" membership included automatic support financial and otherwise in their election efforts. 3

Early election returns gave Sadlowski a lead, but a complete tabulation took nearly three days. During that period Sadlowski received reports of widespread violations of LMRDA, such as ballot fraud, illegal electioneering, deprivation of secret ballot, and interference with observers. The final tabulations published by the USWA International Tellers were: Evett 23,394, and Sadlowski 21,606. In view of the reports of massive irregularities, Sadlowski immediately sought legal assistance to aid him in protesting the election in accordance with the requirements of the USWA constitution. 4 Such a challenge was mandated by the LMRDA requirement that internal union remedies be exhausted as a prerequisite to filing a complaint about an election with the Secretary of Labor.

Sadlowski's protest was submitted to the USWA International Tellers on February 23, 1973, and a hearing was held on March 23, 1973. In late April 1973 the Tellers issued a report upholding the election of Evett. By letter dated May 1, 1973, Sadlowski appealed that decision to the USWA International Executive Board, again in accordance with the Union constitution. On May 31, 1973, with President I. W. Abel presiding, the Board considered Sadlowski's complaint. On that same day the report of the Tellers was sustained.

Sadlowski then filed a timely complaint with the Secretary, pursuant to Title IV of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 482(a). The Department of Labor completed its Report of Investigation in August 1973, and on November 8, 1973, the Secretary instituted suit in the Western District of Pennsylvania seeking to void the District 31 election. Sadlowski's motion to intervene as a plaintiff was granted by the district court in January 1974.

After extensive pretrial proceedings, in which Sadlowski's counsel played an active

Page 591

role, the district court approved a settlement agreement, on August 23, 1974. It directed that a new election for district director be held on November 19, 1974. In this new election, Sadlowski was elected director of District 31 with 39,637 votes to 20,158 for Evett. An order and decree, based upon the Secretary's certification of the election results, was entered on December 2, 1974.

On January 31, 1975, counsel for Sadlowski submitted a Verified Application for Attorneys' Fees and a supporting memorandum. The district court referred the application to a magistrate. After briefing and argument, the magistrate recommended that the request be denied. Sadlowski filed exceptions to the magistrate's recommendation, and after a hearing the district judge overruled the exceptions and adopted the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation, making the sweeping legal conclusion set forth in note 1 above. This appeal followed.

II. ISSUE OF STATUTORY PRECLUSION

The threshold question in this case is whether an award of attorney's fees to an intervenor-plaintiff such as Sadlowski is precluded by Title IV of the LMRDA. 5

The Union advances two reasons for finding preclusion, both of which fall under the rubric of the nature and comprehensiveness of the remedial scheme: (1) the absence of specific authorization to award attorney's fees under Title IV, and (2) the fact that the primary enforcement responsibility for Title IV rests with the Secretary of Labor rather than with private litigants. We disagree, because we have concluded that the district court had the right, in its discretion, to award attorneys' fees on the record in this case. We hold that the district court did not have the power to reject the claim for attorneys' fees on the basis of the legal conclusions stated in note 1 above, which we reject.

A. Absence of Specific Authorization for an Award

The Union urges that an award of attorney's fees under Title IV of the LMRDA is precluded by the absence of any specific provision for such an award in Title IV, in view of specific provision for either attorney's fees or appropriate relief in Titles I, II, III and V. 6 It buttresses this contention by noting that Congress rejected a bill, H.R. 8342, 86th Cong., 1st Sess. § 402(a) (1959), which provided for union member suits under Title IV, and authorized the award of appropriate relief, including attorney's fees.

Page 592

USWA primarily relies upon Fleischmann Distilling Corp. v. Maier Brewing Co., 386 U.S. 714, 87 S.Ct. 1404, 18 L.Ed.2d 475 (1967) for the proposition that an explicit, comprehensive, and exclusive remedial scheme may bar the recovery of attorney's fees. In Fleischmann, the Supreme Court held that, because the remedial provision of the Lanham Act specifically "provided not only for injunctive relief, but also for compensatory recovery measured by the profits that accrued to the defendant by virtue of his infringement, the costs of the action, and damages which may be trebled in appropriate circumstances," (386 U.S. at 719, 87 S.Ct. at 1408), such precise specification of remedies, encompassing authority which could as a practical matter be used to relieve the burden of counsel fees, presented a strong case against...

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28 practice notes
  • Washington v. Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, No. 95-1613
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • March 11, 1996
    ...564 F.2d 108 (3d Cir.1977); Prandini v. National Tea Co., 557 F.2d 1015 (3d Cir.1977); Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America, Etc., 554 F.2d 586 (3d Cir.1977); Richerson v. Jones, 551 F.2d 918 (3d 4 Truax v. Corrigan, 257 U.S. 312, 312, 42 S.Ct. 124, 66 L.Ed. 254 (1921) (Holmes, J., dis......
  • Ursic v. Bethlehem Mines, Nos. 83-5155
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 12, 1983
    ...College, 564 F.2d 108 (3d Cir.1977); Prandini v. National Tea Co., 557 F.2d 1015 (3d Cir.1977); Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America, 554 F.2d 586 (3d Cir.1977), cert. denied sub nom., United Steelworkers of America v. Sadlowski, 435 U.S. 977, 98 S.Ct. 1627, 56 L.Ed.2d 71 (1978); Riche......
  • Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 81-2068
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • May 27, 1983
    ...Electric Auto-Lite Co., 396 U.S. 375, 389-91, 90 S.Ct. 616, 624, 24 L.Ed.2d 593 (1970) (same); Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America, 554 F.2d 586, 591-94 (3d Cir.1977) 13 The Ocasio court rejected the Social Security Administrator's argument that the EAJA is inapplicable to social secu......
  • Hall v. Marshall, Civ. A. No. 77-2764.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • September 7, 1979
    ...v. United Mine Workers of America, 404 U.S. 528, 538-39, 92 S.Ct. 630, 30 L.Ed.2d 686 (1972); Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America 554 F.2d 586, 599 (1977). One result of these competing interests is that the complaining union member cannot "indulge a client's usual prerogative to dire......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
28 cases
  • Washington v. Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, No. 95-1613
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • March 11, 1996
    ...564 F.2d 108 (3d Cir.1977); Prandini v. National Tea Co., 557 F.2d 1015 (3d Cir.1977); Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America, Etc., 554 F.2d 586 (3d Cir.1977); Richerson v. Jones, 551 F.2d 918 (3d 4 Truax v. Corrigan, 257 U.S. 312, 312, 42 S.Ct. 124, 66 L.Ed. 254 (1921) (Holmes, J., dis......
  • Ursic v. Bethlehem Mines, Nos. 83-5155
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 12, 1983
    ...College, 564 F.2d 108 (3d Cir.1977); Prandini v. National Tea Co., 557 F.2d 1015 (3d Cir.1977); Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America, 554 F.2d 586 (3d Cir.1977), cert. denied sub nom., United Steelworkers of America v. Sadlowski, 435 U.S. 977, 98 S.Ct. 1627, 56 L.Ed.2d 71 (1978); Riche......
  • Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 81-2068
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • May 27, 1983
    ...Electric Auto-Lite Co., 396 U.S. 375, 389-91, 90 S.Ct. 616, 624, 24 L.Ed.2d 593 (1970) (same); Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America, 554 F.2d 586, 591-94 (3d Cir.1977) 13 The Ocasio court rejected the Social Security Administrator's argument that the EAJA is inapplicable to social secu......
  • Hall v. Marshall, Civ. A. No. 77-2764.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • September 7, 1979
    ...v. United Mine Workers of America, 404 U.S. 528, 538-39, 92 S.Ct. 630, 30 L.Ed.2d 686 (1972); Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America 554 F.2d 586, 599 (1977). One result of these competing interests is that the complaining union member cannot "indulge a client's usual prerogative to dire......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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