Colpo v. GENERAL TEAM. LOCAL UNION 326, ETC., Civ. A. No. 79-514

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Delaware)
Writing for the CourtSTAPLETON
Citation531 F. Supp. 573
Decision Date01 February 1982
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 79-514,80-181.
PartiesJesse COLPO, Plaintiff, v. GENERAL TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION 326 OF the INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, et al., Defendants. Raymond J. DONOVAN, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff, v. LOCAL 326, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, Defendant.

531 F. Supp. 573

Jesse COLPO, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION 326 OF the INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, et al., Defendants.

Raymond J. DONOVAN, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
v.
LOCAL 326, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, Defendant.

Civ. A. Nos. 79-514, 80-181.

United States District Court, D. Delaware.

February 1, 1982.


Roderick R. McKelvie, James McC. Geddes, Robinson, McKelvie & Geddes, Wilmington, Del., Attys., for plaintiff Colpo.

Joseph J. Farnan, Jr., U. S. Atty., John X. Denney, Jr., Asst. U. S. Atty., Wilmington, Del., Edward T. Ellis, U. S. Dept. of Labor, Philadelphia, Pa., for plaintiff Donovan.

Thomas L. Little, Wilmington, Del., for defendant Local 326.

STAPLETON, District Judge:

These consolidated actions on behalf of Jesse Colpo, a member of Local 326, and the Secretary of Labor, arise under Title I and Title IV of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., Pub.L. 86-257, 73 Stat. 519 (1959), respectively. Both suits involve the Local's decision to disqualify Colpo as a candidate in an election for Local President held on November 4 and 5, 1979 because of his arrearage in dues payments.

The Court entered judgment for the Local on Colpo's allegation that it discriminated against him in the application of its "good standing" requirement, in violation of LMRDA § 101(a)(1), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1), and on the Secretary's contention

531 F. Supp. 574
that the Local's practice of "collapsing" dues payments—crediting current payments to a previous month's arrears—was "unreasonable" under 29 U.S.C. § 481(e). 504 F.Supp. 573 (D.Del.1980), aff'd 659 F.2d 399 (3d Cir. 1981). The Secretary prevailed, however, on a second theory under Section 481(e) of the LMRDA. The Court construed that Section to protect the voting and candidacy rights of Union members who have authorized the withholding of dues payments, if the employer fails to make the deduction as required by a collective bargaining agreement. Accordingly, the Court vacated the November 1979 election in which Colpo was not a candidate and ordered the Local to hold a new election

Colpo was defeated in the second vote, and the Secretary of Labor certified the results. On September 9, 1981, this Court entered a Final Judgment in the consolidated action.1

Now before the Court is Colpo's motion for the award of counsel fees in recognition of the "common benefit" he has conferred upon the membership of the Local. My analysis of this motion, and the evidence submitted in its support, relies upon the Third Circuit's recent opinion in Marshall v. United Steelworkers of America, 666 F.2d 845, (3d Cir. 1981).2

I. COUNSEL FEES AND TITLE IV.

In Hall v. Cole, 412 U.S. 1, 93 S.Ct. 1943, 36 L.Ed.2d 702 (1973), the Supreme Court endorsed the award of counsel fees to prevailing litigants in actions under Title I of the LMRDA as part of the inherent equitable powers of the federal courts, id. at 5, 93 S.Ct. at 1946. "To allow the others to obtain full benefits from the plaintiff's efforts without contributing equally to the litigation expenses would be to enrich the others unjustly at the plaintiff's expense." Id. at 6, 93 S.Ct. at 1946, quoting Mills v. Electric Auto Lite, 396 U.S. 375, 392, 90 S.Ct. 616, 625, 24 L.Ed.2d 593 (1970). Furthermore, the power to award fees was necessary to enable aggrieved union members to finance litigation to protect their rights under the LMRDA. Id. at 13-14, 93 S.Ct. at 1950.

In Brennan v. United Steelworkers of America, supra, the Court of Appeals applied the Hall v. Cole rationale to union members intervening in Title IV suits under the authority of Trbovich v. United Mine Workers, 404 U.S. 528, 92 S.Ct. 630, 30 L.Ed.2d 686 (1972). Although recognizing the limited scope of the intervention contemplated by Trbovich, the Third Circuit found that Title IV enforcement, like Title I, depended upon "quick action and skillful advocacy" on behalf of aggrieved union members. 554 F.2d at 594. Brennan identified at least five ways in which a plaintiff-intervenor may confer a benefit on other union members in a Title IV action: (1) the exhaustion of internal union procedures; (2) preparation of a complaint and supporting evidence for presentation to the Secretary; (3) the development of additional evidence for presentation at trial; (4) assistance in fashioning an appropriate remedial order; (5) assistance to the Secretary in supervising a new election. See 554 F.2d at 594-95. In Marshall v. United Steelworkers, supra, the Third Circuit reaffirmed its holding in Brennan that the Title IV enforcement scheme did not preclude the equitable award of counsel fees,3 and

531 F. Supp. 575
rejected the "but for" standard to prove common benefit. At 849-850. Rather than proving that his assistance was "strictly necessary" to achieve the beneficial result, Colpo need only establish that the work performed by his counsel was of "material assistance" to the Secretary in producing an outcome of benefit to the membership of Local 326

II. MATERIAL ASSISTANCE.

Colpo has reduced his original application for counsel fees by over 40%, recognizing that he is not entitled to fees related exclusively to his unsuccessful Title I claim. In deciding whether the remaining claims are compensable under the law in this Circuit, I must consider the extent to which the work they represent materially aided the Secretary of Labor in the prosecution of the theory of liability on which he ultimately prevailed.4

A. Exhaustion Of Union And Administrative Remedies.

Jesse Colpo sought legal assistance after he learned that he had been disqualified from running in the November 1979 election. He retained Roderick McKelvie as his counsel on October 26, 1979. McKelvie attests that he researched Colpo's legal options, and advised him to pursue both a private action under Title I of the LMRDA and administrative remedies under Title IV. To preserve his rights under Title IV, by exhausting his internal union remedies, Colpo wrote to Frank Fitzsimmons, President of the International Union, to appeal his disqualification on October 26. Counsel simultaneously began work on an affidavit to be submitted to the Department of Labor in support of Colpo's Title IV administrative complaint. The complaint filed with the Secretary on February 1, 1980 was thorough and extensive. This groundwork reduced the scope of the Department of Labor investigation needed to evaluate whether to proceed with a civil action under Title IV.

As the Court wrote in Brennan, supra:

Prompt, thorough, and proper action in the earliest stages is essential to the vindication of Title IV rights, since preservation of all election defects is a prerequisite to government intervention. The Secretary may not seek to void an election on bases
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3 practice notes
  • Pawlak v. Greenawalt, No. 764
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • July 29, 1983
    ...in a common benefit doctrine action. Colpo v. General Teamsters Local Union 326 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 531 F.Supp. 573 (D.Del.1982). The litigation was brought by a union member against his union claiming that the union wrongly disqualified him as a candidate for pre......
  • Donovan v. CSEA Local Union 1000, American Federation of State, County and Mun. Employees, AFL-CIO, AFL-CI
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • February 14, 1986
    ...time spent in applying for the award. Judge Miner, in denying this aspect of the request for fees, cited Colpo v. Teamsters Local 326, 531 F.Supp. 573 (D.Del.1982). There, the court relied upon "common fund" precedents to deny a Title IV intervenor's request for attorney's fees for work on ......
  • Jones v. CRYOGENIC ENERGY CO., Civ. A. No. 81-K-496.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • February 1, 1982
    ...All claims relating to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, are hereby dismissed. It is further 531 F. Supp. 573 ORDERED that defendant shall answer the remaining claims within 10 days of the date of this order. It is ORDERED that, after defendant has answ......
3 cases
  • Pawlak v. Greenawalt, No. 764
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • July 29, 1983
    ...in a common benefit doctrine action. Colpo v. General Teamsters Local Union 326 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 531 F.Supp. 573 (D.Del.1982). The litigation was brought by a union member against his union claiming that the union wrongly disqualified him as a candidate for pre......
  • Donovan v. CSEA Local Union 1000, American Federation of State, County and Mun. Employees, AFL-CIO, AFL-CI
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • February 14, 1986
    ...time spent in applying for the award. Judge Miner, in denying this aspect of the request for fees, cited Colpo v. Teamsters Local 326, 531 F.Supp. 573 (D.Del.1982). There, the court relied upon "common fund" precedents to deny a Title IV intervenor's request for attorney's fees for work on ......
  • Jones v. CRYOGENIC ENERGY CO., Civ. A. No. 81-K-496.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • February 1, 1982
    ...All claims relating to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, are hereby dismissed. It is further 531 F. Supp. 573 ORDERED that defendant shall answer the remaining claims within 10 days of the date of this order. It is ORDERED that, after defendant has answ......

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