Churchill v. S. A. D. No. 49 Teachers Ass'n

Decision Date18 November 1977
Citation380 A.2d 186
Parties97 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2162 Elden L. CHURCHILL, as Superintendent of Schools, S. A. D. # 49, et al. v. S. A. D. # 49 TEACHERS ASSOCIATION.
CourtMaine Supreme Court

Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson by F. Paul Frinsko, Portland, for plaintiff.

Sunenblick, Fontaine & Reben by Stephen P. Sunenblick, Portland, for defendant.


DUFRESNE, Active Retired Justice. 1

School Administrative District No. 49 (the District), organized and certified pursuant to 20 M.R.S.A., § 216, entered into an amended collective bargaining agreement (agreement) with the School Administrative District No. 49 Teachers Association (Association) pursuant to 26 M.R.S.A., § 965. Article V(A) of the amended agreement contains the following "agency shop" provision:

"As a condition of continued employment in S.A.D. # 49, non-members of the T.A. (Teachers Association) should pay their equitable proportion of the cost of representation by the T.A.

"Upon written authorization by the said teacher, the Board agrees to authorize the central office to deduct such fees, equal to but not in excess of the equivalent of T.A. dues, and to submit same to the T.A.

"It shall be the sole responsibility of the T.A. to administer these provisions."

A number of teachers, who belonged to the bargaining unit represented by the Association but were not members of the Association, refused to authorize the deduction of any fees from their wages in implementation of Article V(A) of the agreement. At this turn of events, the Association requested from the Board of Directors of the District (Board) the termination of the employment contracts of the recalcitrant teachers and, when no action was being taken on its request, it initiated a grievance proceeding to enforce its demand.

Before the grievance was scheduled to go to arbitration, however, the Superintendent of Schools of the District and the Board of Directors commenced the instant complaint in the Superior Court (Kennebec County) pursuant to 14 M.R.S.A., §§ 5951-5963 for the purpose of having a judicial determination respecting the validity of the reference "agency shop" provision of the agreement in the light of 20 M.R.S.A., § 473(4) and 26 M.R.S.A., §§ 963 and 964(1)(A), (B) and (2)(A). The plaintiffs at the same time sought injunctive relief against the further processing of the alleged grievance through arbitration until the validity of the "agency shop" provision be established.

The Association countered with a motion to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), M.R.C.P. for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and on the further ground that the Court below lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter.

The Superior Court Justice denied the Association's motion to dismiss the complaint and refused the plaintiffs' request for a stay of the arbitration proceeding.

Feeling aggrieved by the Court's failure to rule on the validity of the legal issue whether the "agency shop" clause was valid and by the Court's deference to the arbitration process for its resolution, the plaintiffs filed a motion to report the question to the Law Court pursuant to Rule 72(c), M.R.C.P. 2 Over the defendant's objection, the presiding Justice granted the motion by issuing the following order which, in pertinent part, reads as follows:

"(T)he Court being of the opinion that questions of law involved in said Order and Ruling ought to be determined by the Law Court before any further proceedings are taken therein and, on motion by the aggrieved party, . . .

"It is ordered that this action be reported to the Law Court in accordance with Rule 72(c) and that all further proceedings related thereto be stayed pending decision of the Law Court."

Procedural sufficiency of the report

The appellee Association first bases its objection to the report of the case on the ground that the issue raised by the offensive court ruling was not specifically delineated therein. We said in Collett v. Bither, 1970, Me., 262 A.2d 353 at 354 that a trial judge may report an interlocutory matter upon the unilateral request of an aggrieved party, pursuant to Rule 72(c), M.R.C.P., provided that 1) the court has made a ruling in the matter, 2) the movant is an aggrieved party and 3) the trial judge certifies that in his opinion the question of law involved in the interlocutory order or ruling ought to be determined by the Law Court before any further proceedings are taken. Nothing in the rule itself suggests that the ruling about which the movant complains must be expressly set up in formal questionnaire to the Law Court either in the motion to report or in the justice's certificate. So long as the record clearly identifies the issue raised and contains the necessary information to permit a determination of the question, no further particularization is required. Furthermore, whether the trial justice should report an interlocutory order is entirely within his sound judicial discretion. MacLean v. Jack, 1964, 160 Me. 93, 198 A.2d 1. There was no abuse of discretion on the part of the presiding Justice who must have viewed the issue properly circumscribed for ready understanding by the Law Court.

Substantive sufficiency of the report

The appellee Association's second objection brings up the propriety of the report in the light of 26 M.R.S.A., § 970. 3 The claim is that the Justice below was correct, both, in his refusal to grant summary judgment in favor of the Board for illegality of the "agency shop" provision of the agreement, and, in his denial of the Board's request for a stay of the arbitration proceeding, all, it is said, pursuant to the doctrine of primary jurisdiction. We did say in State ex rel. Brennan v. R. D. Realty Corporation, 1975, Me., 349 A.2d 201, at 207, that

"(a)s a matter of judicial policy we will generally not decide an issue concerning which an administrative agency has decision capacity until after the agency has considered the issue." (Emphasis in original)

In R. D. Realty, the issue at hand involved a mixed question of law and fact. As pointed out in that case the controlling consideration in support of the doctrine of deference of courts to administrative agencies lies in the fact that the agency "has developed an expertise in resolving the special problems with which it is, by law, required to become concerned," and the "(m)erest prudence suggests that the courts ought to have the benefit of the . . . (Agency's) prior expert evaluation of controverted facts, before it intervenes in a controversy over which the . . . (Agency) has jurisdiction." (Underscoring provided).

There are exceptions to the doctrine of primary jurisdiction excusing the non-exhaustion of administrative remedies, and one of the exceptions is, where the questions involved are questions of law only which the courts must ultimately decide. The issue of the legality of the "agency shop" agreement in the instant case is one solely of law, wherein the special expertise of the administrative agency would be of no significant benefit. See Stanton v. Trustees of St. Joseph's College, 1967, Me., 233 A.2d 718, 724.

Also, where the administrative agency is not empowered to grant the relief sought and it would be futile to complete the administrative appeal process, such are special circumstances dispensing with the exhaustion of the administrative remedy prior to turning to the courts for relief. The claimed illegality of the "agency shop" provision of the agreement qualifies as a special situation where original recourse to the courts should be used rather than proceeding at the administrative level. See Maine State Employees Ass'n v. Williams, 1977, Me., 373 A.2d 258, 261, where we said:

"The issue of whether 13cents per mile is a fair reimbursement for the use of a privately owned automobile on state business, being the only rate authorized by statute, cannot be deemed a grievance against a particular state agency since that agency has no power to allow reimbursement beyond the statutory rate."

As provided in 26 M.R.S.A., § 970 (note 3 supra), the only grievances which may be taken before an arbitrator empowered to make binding decisions are disputes between the parties as to the meaning or application of the specific terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Where the instant agreement contained an "agency shop" provision, such arbitrator must assume its validity as he has no authority to subtract it from the agreement for illegality, nor can he modify the agreement by considering it unlawful. Hence, the report of the Court's ruling was in that aspect proper. See Lewiston Firefighters Ass'n v. City of Lewiston, 1976, Me., 354 A.2d 154, 167.

The Board an aggrieved party

Prior to the report of the case, the defendant Association had moved to dismiss the plaintiff Board's complaint for declaratory judgment respecting the validity of the "agency shop" provision of the agreement. The presiding Justice denied the Association's motion, but at the same time he refused to grant the Board's request for a stay of the order to submit the alleged grievance to arbitration.

"For aggrievement by a judgment or order, such judgment or order must operate prejudicially and directly upon a party's property, pecuniary or personal rights." Jamison v. Shepard, 1970, Me., 270 A.2d 861, 862.

Although the Justice's ruling on the motion to dismiss the Board's complaint was unfavorable to the Association, it is clear, in the light of 26 M.R.S.A., § 970 which compelled the arbitrator to assume the validity of the "agency shop" provision of the agreement that the Court was actually sustaining the Association's contentions on that issue. The Justice's simultaneous denial of a stay of the arbitration process unmistakably characterizes his overall action as an adjudication prejudicially and directly adverse to the rights of the Board.

We conclude that...

To continue reading

Request your trial
26 cases
  • Maine Human Rights Commission v. Local 1361, United Paperworkers Intern. Union AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • February 27, 1978
    ...employee who does not tender to the Union the uniform initiation fees and/or periodic dues." See generally, Churchill v. S. A. D. # 49 Teachers Association, Me., 380 A.2d 186 (1977) for a discussion of an "agency shop" provision under the Municipal Public Employees Labor Relations Law, 26 M......
  • Wessel v. City of Albuquerque
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
    • August 13, 2002
    ...state constitutional amendment prohibiting employer from conditioning employment on union membership); Churchill v. S.A.D. # 49 Teachers Ass'n, 380 A.2d 186, 192 (Me.1977) ("[T]he forced payment of dues or their equivalent under an `agency shop' clause is tantamount to coercion toward membe......
  • Necec Transmission LLC v. Bureau of Parks & Lands
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • August 30, 2022
    ...and discharging the report after concluding that the question was not doubtful (quotation marks omitted)); Churchill v. S.A.D. No. 49 Tchrs. Ass'n , 380 A.2d 186, 189 (Me. 1977) ("So long as the record clearly identifies the issue raised and contains the necessary information to permit a de......
  • Fort Wayne Educ. Ass'n, Inc. v. Goetz
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • December 30, 1982
    ...Rae, supra, decided by the same court, expressly disavowed the necessity of express statutory authorization. Churchill v. S.A.D. # 49 Teachers Association, (1977) Me., 380 A.2d 186, signified the Fort Wayne teachers' proposition to the extent that an agency shop clause requiring payment of ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT