Dist. No. 1 Pacific Coast Dist., Marine Engineers' Beneficial Ass'n (AFL-CIO), In re

Decision Date16 December 1983
Docket NumberAFL-CIO,Nos. 83-2152,s. 83-2152
Citation723 F.2d 70,232 U.S.App.D.C. 367
Parties114 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3431, 115 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2101, 232 U.S.App.D.C. 367, 99 Lab.Cas. P 10,621, 99 Lab.Cas. P 10,753 In re DISTRICT NO. 1--PACIFIC COAST DISTRICT, MARINE ENGINEERS' BENEFICIAL ASSOCIATION (), Petitioner. TRINIDAD CORPORATION v. DISTRICT NO. 1--PACIFIC COAST DISTRICT, MARINE ENGINEERS' BENEFICIAL ASSOCIATION, Appellant, Crest Tankers Officers' Association. CREST TANKERS, INC., et al. v. DISTRICT NO. 1--PACIFIC COAST DISTRICT, MARINE ENGINEERS' BENEFICIAL ASSOCIATION, Appellant. to 83-2154.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

On Petition for Writ of Mandamus (Civil Action Nos. 83-3257 & 83-3297).

On Petition For Rehearing (Civil Action Nos. 83-3257 & 83-3297).

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action Nos. 83-3257, 83-3259).

Angelo V. Arcadipane, Washington, D.C., was on the petition for writ of mandamus and on the brief for appellant.

Peter J. Carre, Washington, D.C., was on the response for appellee/respondent and on the petition for rehearing for appellees.

Anita Barondes and Joseph R. Damato, Washington, D.C., were on the petition for rehearing for appellees.

On Appellant/Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Mandamus and

Emergency Motion for Expedition and Reversal

Before WRIGHT, EDWARDS, and GINSBURG, * Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge HARRY T. EDWARDS.

HARRY T. EDWARDS, Circuit Judge:

This appeal arises from an order of the District Court issued at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, November 4, 1983, enjoining appellant, a labor organization, from pursuing a private arbitration scheduled to be held in New York City on November 9 and 10, 1983. On Monday morning, November 7, 1983, appellant filed an emergency motion with this court seeking immediate reversal of the District Court's order. We vacated the District Court's order the next day so as to allow arbitration to proceed as scheduled. In this opinion, we set forth our reasoning.

I. BACKGROUND

The litigation in District Court originated with a complaint filed by Trinidad Corporation ("Trinidad") on November 1, 1983. Trinidad, a private corporation engaged in the ownership and operation of United States flag vessels, named District No. 1--Pacific Coast District, Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association ("MEBA") as one of two defendants. 1 The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit MEBA from pursuing an arbitration between Trinidad and MEBA that was scheduled to take place in New York City on November 9 and 10. The grievance matter that was the subject of arbitration concerned MEBA's claim that two other private employers were actually "subsidiaries" or "affiliates" of Trinidad so that the work of these employers should be governed by the Trinidad-MEBA collective bargaining agreement. The second defendant named in Trinidad's complaint was the Crest Tankers Officers' Association ("CTOA"), a labor organization allegedly representing the licensed marine engineers employed by one of the other private employers. No immediate relief was sought against CTOA.

On November 3, the District Court held a hearing regarding Trinidad's complaint. After hearing oral presentations by counsel for both parties, the District Court ordered counsel to return to court the next day for additional argument. On November 4, prior to the resumption of argument, Crest Tankers, Inc. ("Crest") and Clayton Tankers, Inc. ("Clayton") filed a complaint with the District Court that named MEBA as the sole defendant. Crest and Clayton, the private employers claimed by MEBA to be subsidiaries or affiliates of Trinidad within the meaning of the Trinidad-MEBA collective bargaining agreement, sought declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief against MEBA. The most immediate relief sought by the Crest/Clayton complaint was issuance of an order enjoining MEBA from pursuing arbitration with Trinidad the following week.

On November 4, the District Court consolidated the Trinidad and Crest/Clayton actions. The court then heard further arguments from counsel. In addition, the court had before it extensive legal memoranda submitted by counsel for Trinidad and Crest/Clayton in support of injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as MEBA's written oppositions. At 6:00 p.m. on November 4, the court issued an order labelled "temporary restraining order," prohibiting MEBA from pursuing arbitration. The order was to remain in effect for ten days until November 14, at which time further hearings would be held.

On Monday morning, November 7, MEBA filed an emergency motion with this court, seeking to overturn the order of the District Court so as to allow the arbitration to go forward as scheduled. MEBA's motion requested that this court reverse the District Court's order or, in the alternative, issue a writ of mandamus compelling the District Court to rescind its order. On November 8, this court issued an order vacating the action of the District Court. We write now to explain our decision.

II. DISCUSSION
A.

The initial question to be considered is whether the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to review the November 4 order of the District Court. The District Court characterized its action as a "temporary restraining order." We find this characterization to be patently erroneous. Despite the label, the November 4 order of the District Court effectively amounted to a preliminary injunction, and we have treated the order as such. See Adams v. Vance, 570 F.2d 950, 953 (D.C.Cir.1977) (District Court's characterization of its order as a temporary restraining order does not preclude Court of Appeals from treating it as a preliminary injunction). Because proper characterization of the order affects not only our appellate jurisdiction, but also our review of the District Court's compliance with the procedural and substantive provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. Secs. 101-115, 2 we briefly set forth the rationale underlying our finding on this point.

In some cases, it is truly difficult to discern whether the equitable relief at issue is a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction. However, we do not find this to be a difficult case; in no legitimate sense is it possible to view the District Court's November 4 action as a temporary restraining order. There are several reasons to support this conclusion. First, the order was to remain in effect for ten days, despite the fact that section 7 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 107, provides a maximum duration of five days for temporary restraining orders. Where a purported temporary restraining order extends for a longer than permissible duration, there is a sound basis for treating it as a preliminary injunction. See Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 86, 94 S.Ct. 937, 951, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974) (citing National Mediation Board v. Air Line Pilots Association, 323 F.2d 305 (D.C.Cir.1963)). 3 Second, the District Court's order was entered after the court heard two days of oral arguments and had before it the parties' extensive written submissions concerning the applicable law. This likewise suggests that the District Court's order was in the nature of a preliminary injunction. See Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. at 87, 94 S.Ct. at 951; San Francisco Real Estate Investors v. Real Estate Investment Trust of America, 692 F.2d 814, 816 (1st Cir.1982).

Finally, it must be recognized that the District Court's preemptive action was taken in the face of the firm policy underlying the Norris-LaGuardia Act (i.e., of limiting federal court intervention in private labor disputes), 4 and the equally strong policy in favor of private labor arbitration free from government interference, see, e.g., Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, 455, 458-59, 77 S.Ct. 923, 917, 918-19, 1 L.Ed.2d 972 (1957). As a consequence, the court's action in blocking the scheduled arbitration produced profoundly important negative effects, far in excess of those that normally flow from the issuance of a temporary restraining order. Simply stated, the action of the District Court was almost wholly inconsistent with well-established law regulating collective bargaining, the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements, and relations between the judiciary and labor arbitrators in the private sector.

B.

On the basis of the foregoing considerations, we think that there can be little doubt over the conclusion that the November 4 order of the District Court amounted to a preliminary injunction, and, as such, was immediately appealable. 5 Given this finding, it is absolutely clear that the procedures followed by the District Court failed to comply with the requirements of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. 6 No sworn testimony was heard, even though such testimony is required by section 7 of the Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 107. No findings of fact were made, in contravention of sections 7 and 9 of the Act, 29 U.S.C. Secs. 107, 109. 7 Strict adherence to the Act's procedures is not a mere matter of form: A district court has no jurisdiction under the Norris-LaGuardia Act to issue a labor injunction without adhering to the explicit terms of the Act. See 29 U.S.C. Sec. 101. We cannot countenance any deviation from the Act. We therefore find that the District Court was without jurisdiction when it acted on November 4. 8

C.

Even if the District Court arguably had jurisdiction to act as it did on November 4, we would still set aside the action as a clear abuse of discretion. As noted above, the Norris-LaGuardia Act establishes a strong federal policy against the issuance of labor injunctions, except in very narrowly prescribed circumstances. Compare Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks Union, Local 770, 398 U.S. 235, 90 S.Ct. 1583, 26 L.Ed.2d 199 (1970), with Buffalo Forge Co. v. United Steelworkers, 428...

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