Monzillo v. Biller, AFL-CI

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Writing for the CourtBefore TAMM and MIKVA, Circuit Judges, and McGOWAN; MIKVA
Citation237 U.S.App.D.C. 20,735 F.2d 1456
Decision Date01 June 1984
Docket NumberNos. 82-1937,82-2035,C,AFL-CI,A
Parties116 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2587, 237 U.S.App.D.C. 20, 101 Lab.Cas. P 11,066 Gerard MONZILLO, et al., members of American Postal Workers Union,ppellees, v. Morris BILLER, et al., members of National Executive Board of the American Postal Workers Union,ppellants. TRINE COUNCIL, et al., members of American Postal Workers Union, Cross-Appellants, v. Morris BILLER, et al., members of National Executive Board of the American Postal Workers Union,ross-Appellees.

Page 1456

735 F.2d 1456
116 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2587, 237 U.S.App.D.C. 20,
101 Lab.Cas. P 11,066
Gerard MONZILLO, et al., members of American Postal Workers
Union, AFL-CIO, Appellees,
v.
Morris BILLER, et al., members of National Executive Board
of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, Appellants.
TRINE COUNCIL, et al., members of American Postal Workers
Union, Cross-Appellants,
v.
Morris BILLER, et al., members of National Executive Board
of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO,
Cross-Appellees.
Nos. 82-1937, 82-2035.
United States Court of Appeals,
District of Columbia Circuit.
Argued Sept. 28, 1983.
Decided June 1, 1984.

Page 1457

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 82-01232).

Darryl J. Anderson, Washington, D.C., with whom Anton G. Hajjar, Washington, D.C., was on the brief for Biller, et al., appellants in No. 82-1937 and cross-appellees in No. 82-2035.

Thomas C. Greble, New York City, for Monzillo, et al., appellees in No. 82-1937 and cross-appellants in No. 82-2035. Allen B. Roberts, New York City, also entered an appearance for Monzillo, et al.

Before TAMM and MIKVA, Circuit Judges, and McGOWAN, Senior Circuit Judge.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge MIKVA.

MIKVA, Circuit Judge:

In March, 1982, members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU or the Union) were informed that the Union's National Executive Board (the Board) had decided to purchase a new national headquarters. Appellees, individual members of the Union, and an association of Union affiliates brought this action under section 501 of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 501 (1982), to prevent the Board from proceeding with the headquarters project until the Union membership had an opportunity to consider the transactions. Appellees claimed that the Board lacked authority under the Union's constitution to commit the Union to the announced transactions without bringing the matters before the membership at the National Convention. The district court entered judgment for appellees and enjoined the Board members from committing the Union to the sale or purchase of a headquarters "until the August 1982 Convention convenes, has the opportunity to consider [these issues], and adjourns." 96 Lab.Cas. (CCH) p 14,177 (D.D.C.1982). Because the court's order has expired on its own terms, we dismiss these appeals as moot.

BACKGROUND

On February 11, 1982, the Union's National Executive Board voted unanimously to finalize the acquisition of a new national headquarters. The Board had been considering various relocation options for several months. Contrary to the Board's usual practice, however, this February meeting was not publicized and was held in closed executive session. The president and general secretary-treasurer of the Union intended to commit the Union to the new building by July, 1982, one month before the Union's National Convention. The decision was announced to the membership in an article that appeared in the March 1982 edition of the Union's magazine, the American Postal Worker. Following publication of the article, appellees, individual officers of state and local Union affiliates, and the Trine Council, an informal association of Union affiliates, filed this lawsuit in district court to prevent the Board from proceeding with the headquarters project.

Appellees brought the lawsuit pursuant to the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA or the Act), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 501 (1982), claiming that the

Page 1458

Board members had breached their fiduciary duties to the Union. Among the responsibilities of labor organization officials, which are set forth in section 501(a) of the Act, is "the duty ... to manage, invest, and expend [the money and property of the labor organization] in accordance with [the labor organization's] constitution and by-laws and any resolutions of the governing bodies adopted thereunder...." 29 U.S.C. Sec. 501(a).

Appellees brought this suit under section 501(b) of the Act, which authorizes members of a labor organization to sue on behalf of the organization when an officer is alleged to have violated any of the duties set forth in section 501(a). 29 U.S.C. Sec. 501(b). Before a member can file such a suit, however, a demand must have been placed on the labor organization to do so, and the organization must have failed to bring the suit within a reasonable period of time after that request had been made. Id. In their complaint, appellees alleged, inter alia, that the Board was without authority under the Union's constitution to commit the Union to the headquarters project. They sought "declaratory and injunctive relief" to prevent the Board members from selling the Union's current headquarters or committing the Union to acquire a new headquarters "until these issues can be considered and decided by the members of the APWU at the August 1982 National Convention of the APWU." Complaint p 1.

The district court consolidated the hearing on appellees' application for a preliminary injunction with the trial on the merits. Testimony at the one-day hearing focused on the section of the constitution which provides that the Board "shall be the highest ranking governing body of the [Union] in between conventions." APWU Constitution, art. X, Sec. 18. One of appellees' witnesses testified that section 18 was added to the constitution in 1980 to force the Board to follow membership resolutions between conventions and that it was designed to limit, not enlarge, the Board's powers. Appellants' witness, the general secretary-treasurer of the Union, testified that section 18 gave the Board the full authority, in between conventions, to engage in any business which it deems necessary or proper to protect the interests of the Union and its members.

An interpretation of a union constitution rendered by officials of a labor organization is entitled to considerable deference by a reviewing court and should not be overruled unless the court finds that the interpretation was unreasonable or made in bad faith. See Local 334, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices v. United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices, 669 F.2d 129, 131 (3d Cir.1982); Busch v. Givens, 627 F.2d 978, 981 (9th Cir.1980); Stelling v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1547, 587 F.2d 1379, 1388-89 (9th Cir.1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 944, 99 S.Ct. 2890, 61 L.Ed.2d 315 (1979); English v. Cunningham, 282 F.2d 848, 850 (D.C.Cir.1960). Although appellants' construction of the disputed section seems reasonable on its face, the district court held for the appellees. The court appeared to be swayed by the specific circumstances surrounding the February vote. In a memorandum opinion and order issued two days after the trial, the court found that "[i]t [was] apparent from the secrecy and timing and from the testimony at trial that defendants intend[ed] to prevent the membership from considering the project." 96 Lab.Cas. (CCH) at 24,094. The court held that the Board members' interpretation of the Union's constitution was neither reasonable nor made in good faith, id. at 24,095, and concluded that appellants were "constitutionally unauthorized to commit the APWU to this project absent approval by the National Convention." Id. at 24,096 (emphasis added).

The court's two page order enjoined the appellants from committing the Union to the "sale or other disposition" of the current headquarters or to the "purchase or other acquisition" of a new headquarters "until the August 1982 APWU National Convention convenes, has the opportunity to consider the [transactions], and adjourns

Page 1459

......" (emphasis added). In addition, the court dismissed the Trine Council as a plaintiff, denied the Union's motion to intervene as a defendant, and set bond in the amount of $250.

One week after the district court issued its order, appellants filed a motion for a new trial. While that motion was pending, the Board adhered to the court's injunction by formally withdrawing from the proposed headquarters project. The district court denied the motion for a new trial on July 19, 1982 on the ground that the case had become moot. The court stated that, as a result of the withdrawal, "there is no longer a live controversy. Defendants seek an advisory opinion from the Court as to the [Board's] authority to conduct business." Appellees subsequently filed a request for attorneys' fees pursuant to section 501(b) of the LMRDA, but the district court stayed consideration of that request pending our disposition of this appeal.

The Union's National Convention convened on August 23, 1982 and adjourned on August 27, 1982. At that meeting, the Convention adopted an "interpretative resolution" which appeared to dispute the district court's interpretation of the Union's constitution. That resolution interpreted the constitution as giving the Board "full authority, except when a convention is in session, to make decisions and engage in transactions that the National Executive Board deems necessary in the best interests of the Union." See Appendix, post.

Appellants here claim that the appellees had not met the jurisdictional prerequisites for filing suit under section 501 of the LMRDA, that the Board's interpretation of its authority under the Union's constitution was proper, and that the district court had abused its discretion in denying their motion for a new trial. Monzillo v. Biller, No. 82-1937. The Trine Council cross-appealed from its dismissal as a party plaintiff. Trine Council v. Biller, No. 82-2035.

Appellees filed a motion to dismiss the appeal as moot. A motions panel of this court referred that motion to the merits panel and ordered the parties to brief two additional issues: whether either the injunction bond filed in district court or appellees' request for attorneys' fees bars a determination of mootness. We now hold...

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83 practice notes
  • Force v. Salazar, No. 1:09-cv-00495 BJR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 1 Septiembre 2011
    ...because, while the litigation was pending, the Service denied the outstanding Wood Bison import permit applications); Monzillo v. Biller, 735 F.2d 1456, 1459 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (when action sought to be compelled "ha[d] already occurred," injunctive and declaratory relief claims were moot). P......
  • Erkins v. Bryan, Nos. 84-7455
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 8 Abril 1986
    ...543 F.2d 369 (D.C.Cir.1976) (noting that Alyeska did not impair the common benefit theory used in LMRDA cases); Monzillo v. Biller, 735 F.2d 1456 While we affirm that Norris remains good law, we also point out that its allowance of fees in excess of judgment is fully consistent with the leg......
  • Am. Great Lakes Ports Ass'n v. Zukunft, Civil Action No.: 16–1019 (RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 3 Noviembre 2017
    ...provide no effective remedy because a party has already ‘obtained all the relief that [it has] sought’ ") (quoting Monzillo v. Biller , 735 F.2d 1456, 1459 (D.C. Cir. 1984) ); Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior , 88 F.3d 1191, 1207 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (a party "no longer suf......
  • Conservation Force v. Salazar, Nos. 1:09–cv–00495 BJR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 1 Septiembre 2011
    ...because, while the litigation was pending, the Service denied the outstanding Wood Bison import permit applications); Monzillo v. Biller, 735 F.2d 1456, 1459 (D.C.Cir.1984) (when action sought to be compelled “ha[d] already occurred,” injunctive and declaratory relief claims were moot). Pla......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
83 cases
  • Force v. Salazar, No. 1:09-cv-00495 BJR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 1 Septiembre 2011
    ...because, while the litigation was pending, the Service denied the outstanding Wood Bison import permit applications); Monzillo v. Biller, 735 F.2d 1456, 1459 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (when action sought to be compelled "ha[d] already occurred," injunctive and declaratory relief claims were moot). P......
  • Erkins v. Bryan, Nos. 84-7455
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 8 Abril 1986
    ...543 F.2d 369 (D.C.Cir.1976) (noting that Alyeska did not impair the common benefit theory used in LMRDA cases); Monzillo v. Biller, 735 F.2d 1456 While we affirm that Norris remains good law, we also point out that its allowance of fees in excess of judgment is fully consistent with the leg......
  • Am. Great Lakes Ports Ass'n v. Zukunft, Civil Action No.: 16–1019 (RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 3 Noviembre 2017
    ...provide no effective remedy because a party has already ‘obtained all the relief that [it has] sought’ ") (quoting Monzillo v. Biller , 735 F.2d 1456, 1459 (D.C. Cir. 1984) ); Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior , 88 F.3d 1191, 1207 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (a party "no longer suf......
  • Conservation Force v. Salazar, Nos. 1:09–cv–00495 BJR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 1 Septiembre 2011
    ...because, while the litigation was pending, the Service denied the outstanding Wood Bison import permit applications); Monzillo v. Biller, 735 F.2d 1456, 1459 (D.C.Cir.1984) (when action sought to be compelled “ha[d] already occurred,” injunctive and declaratory relief claims were moot). Pla......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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