Hodgson v. United Mine Workers of America

Decision Date13 November 1972
Docket NumberNo. 72-1709.,72-1709.
PartiesJames D. HODGSON, Secretary of Labor, Mike Trbovich et al., Appellants, v. UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit



Messrs. Edward L. Carey, William P. Owens and Charles L. Widman, Washington, D.C., were on appellee United Mine Workers of America's motion to dismiss.

Messrs. Joseph A. Yablonski, Clarice Feldman and Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., Washington, D.C., were on appellants' response to motion to dismiss and appellants' motion for summary reversal.

Messrs. Walter H. Fleischer and Michael H. Stein, Washington, D.C., were on the Secretary of Labor's opposition to the motion for summary reversal.

Before TAMM and ROBINSON, Circuit Judges.


This appeal presented a motion by proposed intervenors, members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), for summary reversal of an order of the District Court denying them leave to intervene as a matter of right1 in a suit brought by the Secretary of Labor against the UMWA2 pursuant to Title III of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA).3 The UMWA moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that appellants failed to file a timely notice of appeal,4 and the Secretary has resisted the motion on the merits. We have heretofore denied the motion to dismiss and granted the motion for summary reversal, our order stating that our opinion would follow as soon as the business of the court permitted. We now delineate the reasons for our disposition.


On the basis of written complaints submitted by members of the UMWA,5 the Secretary of Labor initiated a suit in the District Court on December 16, 1964, seeking under Title III of the LMRDA6 to lift allegedly unlawful trusteeships7 which had been imposed by the UMWA on seven districts since the 1920s and the 1930s. The twenty-two districts of the UMWA constitute the middle level of its three-tiered structure, and seventeen of these are in trusteeship, or what the UMWA terms "provisional" status, that is, they have no popularly elected officers.8 Appellants are members of six of the seven such districts which are the subjects of this litigation.9

Title III of the LMRDA limits the purposes of trusteeships to "correcting corruption or financial malpractice, assuring the performance of collective bargaining agreements or other duties of a bargaining representative, restoring democratic procedures, or otherwise carrying out the legitimate objects of such labor organization."10 A presumption of invalidity attaches to any trusteeship in existence more than eighteen months, and this may be rebutted only by clear and convincing proof that its continuation is necessary for a statutorily allowable objective.11 Title III also provides for a dual enforcement procedure which permits actions either by the Secretary12 or by union members themselves13 to challenge trusteeships as invalid.14 However, once suit has been filed by the Secretary, exclusive jurisdiction over the trusteeship is vested in the district court in which the filing occurs.15

The litigation here has spanned the terms of three Secretaries of Labor and did not come to trial until July, 1971, nearly seven years after its initiation. Following the trial, the District Court, on July 22, 1971, took the case under advisement. Appellants filed their first motion for leave to intervene on January 21, 1972, prior to issuance of its decision.

Appellants based their application for intervention on Trbovich v. United Mine Workers of America,16 decided January 17, 1972, in which the Supreme Court held that Trbovich, an appellant here, could intervene as of right in an action by the Secretary challenging UMWA elections under Title IV of the LMRDA.17 Like the situation here, the election case18 had been tried and was under advisement when the Court ordered the District Court to allow the intervention.

On March 10, 1972, the District Court issued an order in the instant case denying appellants' motion for intervention as untimely. For some unexplained reason, none of the parties received notice of this order,19 and appellants did not become aware of its existence until May 24, when the District Court filed its opinion holding that the trusteeships had been unlawfully maintained. Upon discovering that their application had been denied, appellants filed a new motion to intervene on June 5, along with a request, predicated on Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for relief from the March 10 order because of the absence of notice. In the period between the order of March 10 and the filing of the new motion, the District Court had issued its opinion20 and had requested a proposed decree from the Secretary, and an opinion had also issued in the election case, deciding it on the merits.21

On June 20, the District Court denied the second application for intervention on the earlier-stated ground that it was untimely and on the additional ground that the Secretary of Labor adequately represented appellants' interests. On July 18, appellants filed notice of this appeal, and thereafter their motion seeking summary reversal of that order.


The question whether this court has the jurisdiction to entertain this appeal was raised by the UMWA's motion to dismiss. It pointed to the expiration of the jurisdictional period for filing notice of appeal, when measured from the District Court's March 10 order denying appellants' first motion for intervention. But the UMWA failed to deal with the fact, demonstrated by the record, that appellants' notice of appeal specifically identifed as its subject the June 20 order denying their second motion for intervention, and that, as to the latter order, it was filed well within the allotted period.

Rule 4(a) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure requires that a notice of appeal in a civil case be filed within thirty days of the entry of the order appealed from, unless the United States is a party, in which case a notice of appeal may be filed within sixty days of the order.22 Upon a showing of excusable neglect, the District Court may extend the time for filing a notice of appeal for a period not exceeding thirty days from the expiration of the time otherwise prescribed by the rule.23 Such an extension may be granted either before or after the prescribed time period has run.24

In the present case, owing to the apparent failure of the clerk to give them notice,25 appellants did not discover the March 10 order until May 25, after the court had rendered its opinion and requested the Secretary to submit a proposed decree. The sixty-day period designated by Rule 4(a) had already expired at that time,26 and even if appellants had immediately sought a thirty-day extension on grounds of excusable neglect,27 the time for filing their notice of appeal would have terminated on June 8. Appellants did not seek an extension, but chose instead to file a second motion for intervention and alternatively for relief under Civil Rule 60(b) from the March 10 order. The Rule 60(b) relief asked for was an order expunging the March 10 order and reentering it anew with a view to reopening the appeal period.28 This motion was filed on June 5, and denied by the District Court on June 20. On July 18, appellants' notice of appeal from the June 20 order was taken and, for purposes of review of that order, it was timely.

It is well settled that there is no jurisdiction to hear appeals not filed within the time limits set by Rule 4(a).29 It is equally clear that motions filed under Rule 60(b) for relief from a judgment or order do not toll the time for filing a notice of appeal from such judgment or order.30 Nor can Rule 60(b) be used to circumvent time requirements by the simple expedient of vacating a judgment and reinstating it in order to start anew the running of the appeal period.31 The harsh result occurring where, as here, counsel has not received Rule 77(d) notice can only be mitigated by a prompt request for a thirty-day extension under Rule 4(a).32 Counsel then representing appellants made no such request, and as we have seen, a request for relief under Rule 60(b) is not a means of extending the time for appeal.33

In the final analysis, the question of jurisdiction must be resolved by ascertaining whether the June 20 order, from which this appeal was taken, was merely a reinstatement of the court's March 10 ruling, or whether it constituted a new determination by the District Court reached under circumstances materially changed from those existing in March. If the later order was only an attempt to revive the earlier order, it did not start the time for appeal all over again.34 But if, on the other hand, it was in essence a new decision on appellants' motion for intervention, the District Court's June 20 denial is properly before us. It is well settled that in ruling on an application for intervention,35 the court is required to exercise a considerable degree of discretion.36 Moreover, the various factors which guide the exercise of that discretion may change substantially as the litigation progresses.37 Where, as here, a court's ruling has discretionary elements based on circumstances which are subject to alteration, the law recognizes the power and responsibility of the court to reconsider its ruling if a material change in circumstances has in fact occurred.38 We are of the opinion that the District Court's order denying appellants' second application for intervention falls within the ambit of this principle.

On January 21, 1972, appellants sought intervention as of right or, in the alternative, permissive intervention. Their application was denied on March 10, and the only reason given by the court for the denial was untimeliness. On June 5, applicants renewed their motion for intervention.

In the four months which elapsed...

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