Karney v. Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations, No. SC 97833

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtZel M. Fischer, Judge
Parties Rebecca KARNEY and Johnny Miller, Respondents, v. The DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS and Todd Smith, Appellants, and Darryl Forte and Jackson County, Missouri, Defendants.
Decision Date31 March 2020
Docket NumberNo. SC 97833

599 S.W.3d 157

Rebecca KARNEY and Johnny Miller, Respondents,
v.
The DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS and Todd Smith, Appellants,
and
Darryl Forte and Jackson County, Missouri, Defendants.

No. SC 97833

Supreme Court of Missouri, en banc.

Opinion issued March 31, 2020
Rehearing Denied April 6, 2020


The state was represented by Solicitor General D. John Sauer and Julie M. Blake of the attorney general's office in Jefferson City and Alyssa M. Mayer and Rachel M. Rivers of the attorney general's office in Kansas City; the office number is (573) 751-3321.

Karney and Miller were represented by Joshua A. Sanders, John B. Boyd, John R. Boyd, Mark E. Parrish, Brianne N. Thomas, Erica Fumagalli and Raymond E. Salva of Boyd, Kenter, Thomas & Parrish LLC in Independence, (816) 471-4511.

Zel M. Fischer, Judge

599 S.W.3d 160

The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Darryl Forte of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Jackson County, Missouri, and Todd Smith, chair of the State Board of Mediation (collectively, "Appellants") appeal the circuit court's declaration that § 105.585(2)1 is unconstitutional as it relates to picketing. No party challenges the circuit court's order "that nothing in this judgment shall be construed to grant plaintiffs or any public employee in the State of Missouri the right to strike," which is consistent with the well-settled doctrine that "public employees—unlike their private-sector counterparts—are not permitted to strike." Independence-Nat'l Educ. Ass'n v. Independence Sch. Dist. , 223 S.W.3d 131, 141 (Mo. banc 2007). The circuit court's judgment is affirmed to the extent it enjoins Appellants from enforcing or implementing § 105.585(2)'s mandated prohibition against "picketing of any kind" in its negotiations for a new labor agreement with the CWA Local 6360.

Factual and Procedural History

Rebecca Karney and Johnny Miller (collectively, "Karney") are dispatchers in the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and members of the Communication Workers of America Local 6360. The dispatchers are currently engaged in negotiations with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office for a new labor agreement. Their previous labor agreement expired December 31, 2018, and did not prohibit picketing. Karney filed a petition in the circuit court, seeking a judgment declaring § 105.585(2) unconstitutional and enjoining [Appellants] from "enforcing or otherwise implementing ... § 105.585(2)."

Section 105.585 was enacted in 2018 via House Bill No. 1413 and governs labor agreements negotiated between public entities and labor organizations. The challenged provision provides:

Every labor agreement shall expressly prohibit all strikes and picketing of any kind. A strike shall include any refusal to perform services, walkout, sick-out, sit-in, or any other form of interference with the operations of any public body. Every labor agreement shall include a provision acknowledging that any public employee who engages in any strike or concerted refusal to work, or who pickets over any personnel matter, shall be subject to immediate termination of employment[.]

§ 105.585(2).

Karney alleges the prohibition of "picketing of any kind" and "pickets over any personnel matter" violates article I, §§ 2, 8 - 9, and 29 of the Missouri Constitution, which provide:

That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their industry; that all persons are created equal and are entitled to
599 S.W.3d 161
equal rights and opportunities under the law; that to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and that when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.

Mo. Const. art. I, § 2.

That no law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech, no matter by what means communicated: that every person shall be free to say, write or publish, or otherwise communicate whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuses of that liberty; and that in all suits and prosecutions for libel or slander the truth thereof may be given in evidence; and in suits and prosecutions for libel the jury, under the direction of the court, shall determine the law and the facts.

Mo. Const. art. I, § 8.

That the people have the right peaceably to assemble for their common good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances by petition or remonstrance.

Mo. Const. art. I, § 9.

That employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.

Mo. Const. art. I, § 29.

After a bench trial, the circuit court declared § 105.585(2) unconstitutional under both the Missouri Constitution and the United States Constitution as it relates to picketing, and enjoined defendants from using or applying § 105.585(2)'s prohibition against picketing "in negotiating any collective bargaining agreement with Plaintiffs." This Court has jurisdiction. Mo. Const. art. V, § 3.

Standard of Review

"When reviewing a declaratory judgment, an appellate court's standard of review is the same as in any other court-tried case." Guyer v. City of Kirkwood , 38 S.W.3d 412, 413 (Mo. banc 2001). The circuit court's judgment will be upheld "unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, unless it is against the weight of the evidence, unless it erroneously declares the law, or unless it erroneously applies the law." Murphy v. Carron , 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976).

"This Court reviews a constitutional challenge to a statute de novo. " Kansas City Premier Apartments, Inc. v. Mo. Real Estate Comm'n , 344 S.W.3d 160, 167 (Mo. banc 2011). "A statute is presumed valid and will not be held unconstitutional unless it clearly contravenes a constitutional provision. The person challenging the statute's validity bears the burden of proving the act clearly and undoubtedly violates the constitution." Kansas City , 344 S.W.3d at 167.

Analysis

Karney alleges § 105.585(2)'s prohibition against picketing violates her constitutional rights to equal protection, free speech, peaceable assembly, and collective bargaining under the Missouri Constitution article I, §§ 2, 8-9, and 29. Accordingly, she sought an order from the circuit court declaring § 105.585(2) unconstitutional and permanently enjoining Appellants from "enforcing or otherwise implementing ... § 105.585(2)."

Plain Text and Ordinary Meaning of Section 105.585(2)

Appellants contend the plain meaning of § 105.585(2) prohibits picketing only in conjunction with a labor strike. Such construction, they argue, would be constitutional and, therefore, favored over any unconstitutional interpretation.

599 S.W.3d 162

"This Court's primary rule of statutory interpretation is to give effect to legislative intent as reflected in the plain language of the statute at issue." Parktown Imports, Inc. v. Audi of Am., Inc. , 278 S.W.3d 670, 672 (Mo. banc 2009). This Court resorts to other rules of statutory interpretation only when the plain meaning of the statute is ambiguous or defeats the purpose of the statute. Ivie v. Smith , 439 S.W.3d 189, 202 (Mo. banc 2014). "The rules of statutory interpretation are not intended to be applied haphazardly or indiscriminately to achieve a desired result." Parktown Imports, Inc. , 278 S.W.3d at 672.

Appellants are asking this Court to apply the rule of statutory interpretation that "[i]f a statutory provision can be interpreted in two ways, one constitutional and the other not constitutional, the constitutional construction shall be adopted." State v. Vaughn , 366 S.W.3d 513, 517 (Mo. banc 2012). The plain language of § 105.585(2), however, offers no room to derive ambiguity. Without ambiguity, this Court is bound to give effect to the intent reflected in the statute's plain language and cannot resort to other means of interpretation. Parktown , 278 S.W.3d at 672. The statute plainly requires all public labor agreements to prohibit "picketing of any kind."

Appellants point to a narrow dictionary definition of the noun, "picket", to argue "picketing of any kind" actually means "picketing in conjunction with a strike." However, the term's plain meaning is not so narrow and, if this Court were to limit the term to Appellants' proffered definition, it renders a large part of the statute superfluous. The statute already provides that any person engaged in a strike "shall be subject to immediate termination." There is no reason to repeat the prohibition of picketing in conjunction with a strike because it is already expressly prohibited by the prohibition against employee strikes. Further, "picketing" is commonly understood to encompass much more than a demonstration in conjunction with a labor strike2 and had the legislature intended that usage, it would have narrowed its language. Thus, the plain meaning of the phrase "picketing of any kind" must be construed to include demonstrations and...

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11 practice notes
  • State v. Lee, WD 83778
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 26, 2021
    ...meaning of the statute is ambiguous or defeats the purpose of the statute.’ " Id. (quoting Karney v. Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations , 599 S.W.3d 157, 162 (Mo. banc 2020) ). "Words in a statute are not read in isolation but, rather, are read in the context of the statute to determine thei......
  • State ex rel. Schmitt v. Choi, WD 83427
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • February 2, 2021
    ...effect to legislative intent as reflected in the plain language of the statute at issue." Karney v. Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations , 599 S.W.3d 157, 162 (Mo. banc 2020) (internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly:We will look beyond the plain meaning of the statute only when the lang......
  • McDermot v. Doner, SD 36775
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 14, 2021
    ...1976). The review of a decision to grant declaratory relief is reviewed in that manner. See Karney v. Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations , 599 S.W.3d 157, 161 (Mo. banc 2020) (review of judgment granting declaratory relief); Century Motor Corp. v. FCA US LLC , 477 S.W.3d 89, 94 (Mo. App. 201......
  • Osage Util. Operating Co. v. Mo. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, WD 83837
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 9, 2021
    ...when the plain meaning of the statute is ambiguous or defeats the purpose of the statute." Karney v. Dep't of Lab. & Indus. Relations , 599 S.W.3d 157, 162 (Mo. banc 2020) (citing Ivie v. Smith , 439 S.W.3d 189, 202 (Mo. banc 2014) ). "Other rules of statutory interpretation, which are dive......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • State v. Lee, WD 83778
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 26, 2021
    ...meaning of the statute is ambiguous or defeats the purpose of the statute.’ " Id. (quoting Karney v. Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations , 599 S.W.3d 157, 162 (Mo. banc 2020) ). "Words in a statute are not read in isolation but, rather, are read in the context of the statute to determine thei......
  • State ex rel. Schmitt v. Choi, WD 83427
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • February 2, 2021
    ...effect to legislative intent as reflected in the plain language of the statute at issue." Karney v. Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations , 599 S.W.3d 157, 162 (Mo. banc 2020) (internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly:We will look beyond the plain meaning of the statute only when the lang......
  • McDermot v. Doner, SD 36775
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 14, 2021
    ...1976). The review of a decision to grant declaratory relief is reviewed in that manner. See Karney v. Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations , 599 S.W.3d 157, 161 (Mo. banc 2020) (review of judgment granting declaratory relief); Century Motor Corp. v. FCA US LLC , 477 S.W.3d 89, 94 (Mo. App. 201......
  • Osage Util. Operating Co. v. Mo. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, WD 83837
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 9, 2021
    ...when the plain meaning of the statute is ambiguous or defeats the purpose of the statute." Karney v. Dep't of Lab. & Indus. Relations , 599 S.W.3d 157, 162 (Mo. banc 2020) (citing Ivie v. Smith , 439 S.W.3d 189, 202 (Mo. banc 2014) ). "Other rules of statutory interpretation, which are dive......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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