Utah Transit Auth. v. Local 382 of the Amalgamated Transit Union

CourtSupreme Court of Utah
Citation721 Utah Adv. Rep. 42,289 P.3d 582,194 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2689,2012 UT 75
Docket NumberNo. 20100940.,20100940.
PartiesUTAH TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. LOCAL 382 OF THE AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date06 November 2012

289 P.3d 582
194 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2689
721 Utah Adv. Rep. 42
2012 UT 75

UTAH TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Plaintiff and Appellee,

No. 20100940.

Supreme Court of Utah.

Nov. 6, 2012.

289 P.3d 584

Scott A. Hagen, D. Zachary Wiseman, David B. Dibble, Salt Lake City, for appellee.

Joseph E. Hatch, Murray, Arthur F. Sandack, Salt Lake City, for appellant.

Justice LEE, opinion of the Court:

¶ 1 This case arises out of collective bargaining negotiations between the Utah Transit Authority and Local 382 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Those negotiations came to a standstill in 2009, when the parties entered into arbitration and litigation to resolve their disputes. The district court granted UTA's partial motion for summary judgment in the ensuing litigation, and the Union appealed.

¶ 2 Before the matter could be addressed on appeal, however, the arbitrator entered a binding ruling largely in favor of the Union. With this ruling in hand, the parties once again entered into negotiations and successfully hammered out a new collective bargaining agreement. Because their dispute has since been resolved, the case is moot and we accordingly dismiss it.


¶ 3 UTA and the Union operate under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that largely defines the terms and conditions of employment of those UTA employees represented by the Union. Faced with the pending expiration of their collective bargaining agreement in December 2009, the parties entered into negotiations with the intent to come to terms on a new CBA. With an eye on December, the parties met over a dozen times during a span of several months. Quarrels arose between the two in late 2009, however, and on the eve of the agreement's expiration in December, UTA declared that the parties had reached an impasse despite attempts to negotiate in good faith. UTA then unilaterally modified the terms and conditions of its unionized employees' employment.

¶ 4 Along with the terms of their CBA, the parties are also subject to an “arrangement” under Section 13(c) of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964. 49 U.S.C. § 5333(b) (2005). In the event the two are not able to reach an agreement after sixty days of negotiating over a collective bargaining agreement, the arrangement provides for two resolutionary measures: a period of fact finding and another for arbitration. With regard to fact finding, the arrangement requires that, until the fact-finding period has ended, “[t]he terms and conditions of any expiring collective bargaining agreement between the parties shall remain in place following expiration of such agreement, unless otherwise mutually agreed in writing by the parties.” The 13(c) arrangement also provides for arbitration at the election of either party regarding its “application, interpretation, or enforcement.”

¶ 5 Following their failed negotiations, the parties mutually elected to arbitrate the question whether the arrangement prohibited UTA from unilaterally modifying the terms and conditions of the Union members' employment. Although the Union proposed that the parties also arbitrate the question whether UTA actually bargained in good faith to impasse, UTA took the position that those issues were not within the scope of the arbitration clause, and accordingly declined to have them considered by the arbitrator.

¶ 6 Meanwhile, in April 2010, UTA filed a complaint for declaratory relief, requesting that the district court find that the disputes in question were not arbitrable and that the parties were at an impasse in their negotiations in December 2009. The Union responded by filing a motion to compel arbitration and to stay the judicial proceedings. On the heels of that motion, UTA filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that UTA's unilateral modification of the Union members' terms and conditions of employment was an issue properly to be heard by a court and not by an arbitrator. The issues were briefed and the court conducted a hearing in July 2010.

¶ 7 Some weeks later, in September, the district court ruled on the matter, denying the Union's motion to compel arbitration and granting UTA's motion for partial summary judgment. The Union subsequently filed a motion to amend the court's ruling, which the parties jointly endorsed. The court accepted

289 P.3d 585

the recommended changes, and entered an Amended Ruling on November 9, 2010.

¶ 8 Then, in December 2010, the appointed arbitrator rendered his decision, ruling that the parties' 13(c) arrangement prohibited UTA from unilaterally altering the terms and conditions of the expiring collective bargaining agreement until it had first entered into and completed the fact-finding procedures provided in the arrangement. As a result, the arbitrator concluded that UTA had to reinstate the terms and conditions of the 2009 collective bargaining agreement.

¶ 9 Following the arbitrator's ruling, in April 2011, the parties restarted negotiations and ultimately agreed on terms and entered into a new collective bargaining agreement. As of the time of oral argument, this collective bargaining agreement was still in effect. The Union filed a timely appeal, asking that we review the court's order denying the Union's motion to compel arbitration.

¶ 10 In July 2011, UTA filed a Suggestion of Mootness with the court, urging us to dismiss the appeal as moot because “there [was] no meaningful relief that [could] be granted.” The Union disagreed, insisting that this court should reach the merits of the case in order to “eliminate a significant uncertainty regarding [the] process involving collecti[ve] bargaining between the UTA and the Union,” to prevent future violations of this nature, and to serve the public interest “by resolving a significant conflict.” UTA has since backed off its stance on mootness, arguing that, after some consideration, the case is only mostly moot. UTA now asks us to consider “the procedural question presented for appeal”—whether “an allegation of an unfair practice ... must be arbitrated or decided by a court.”

¶ 11 We disagree with both parties and conclude that the case is moot. We accordingly dismiss it.

1] ¶ 12 This case is moot. It became moot the moment the parties negotiated and entered into their new collective bargaining agreement. And because it is moot, we lack the power to address the underlying merits or issue what would amount to an advisory opinion.

¶ 13 Both parties urge us to ignore the mootness problem, however, and address some of the outstanding issues between them—to help them “fully understand what behavior is expected of them when negotiating the terms and conditions of a new collective bargaining agreement”; to “assist ... future negotiations” between them; and to sort out whether certain issues “must be arbitrated or decided by a court.” In so arguing, both parties invoke a so-called “public interest exception” that purportedly opens the door to our review. And both parties suggest that issuing such a decision “would be an appropriate exercise of the Court's discretion.” We disagree on all counts.

[2] [3] ¶ 14 Although the parties appear to have had standing and a ripe controversy when the case was filed in the district court, their subsequent negotiation and new collective bargaining agreement rendered the case moot and accordingly non-justiciable. As we recently explained, “[w]here the issues that were before the trial court no longer exist, the appellate court will not review the case. An appeal is moot if during the pendency of the appeal circumstances change so that the controversy is eliminated, thereby rendering the relief requested impossible or of no legal effect.” Navajo Nation v. State (In re Adoption of L.O.), 2012 UT 23, ¶ 8, 282 P.3d 977 (internal quotation marks omitted).

¶ 15 The parties do not contest that the Union has been restored to the status quo ante in the time the case has been pending on appeal. Because the arbitrator's ruling reinstated the Union's terms of employment and prompted the parties to enter into a new collective bargaining agreement, there is no remaining live controversy of any significance to the parties' current circumstances.FN1 Put another way, the case is moot in that there remains no meaningful relief that this

[289 P.3d 586

court could offer, such that anything we might say about the issues would be purely advisory.

¶ 16 Despite their acknowledgement of these foundations for a finding of mootness, the parties nonetheless encourage our resolution of the underlying issues on the ground that they are important and might speculatively resurface as a point of dispute between the parties in the future. We reject that invitation, and in so doing reiterate the contours of the doctrine of mootness and confirm its fundamental basis in article VIII of the Utah Constitution.

4] ¶ 17 The parties' principal position on appeal is to urge us to exercise a...

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  • Widdison v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • 29 Abril 2021
    ...should simply be referred to as an exception to the mootness doctrine. See Utah Transit Auth. v. Local 382 of Amalgamated Transit Union , 2012 UT 75, ¶ 33, 289 P.3d 582 . Under this exception, it is not enough that an appellant convince us that the appeal presents an issue of public concer......
  • Morgan v. Getter, 2013–SC–000196–DGE.
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