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CUNNINGHAM v. ENGLISH

December 11, 1958

John CUNNINGHAM et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
John F. ENGLISH et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LETTS

After twenty-two days of trial and when the plaintiffs had rested their case, the parties presented to the Court the consent order which is involved herein. The Court was not called upon to weigh the evidence which had been adduced.

The plaintiffs are rank and file members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, an unincorporated association. The defendants are an unincorporated association, and the officers thereof who were elected at the 1957 convention held in the City of Miami, Florida.

 The action had been brought to restrain such officers so elected from assuming the duties of their offices upon the ground that the convention had been rigged and that the election of such officers was not an expression of the membership of such International Brotherhood. As a matter of convenience throughout this Memorandum the International Brotherhood above mentioned and the individual defendants will be referred to as the Teamsters.

 By the consent order the individual defendants were permitted provisionally to assume the duties of the offices to which they had been elected.

 Several motions are before the Court for decision. They will be dealt with separately. Because of its overall importance, the Court will first consider the petition of the Monitors for construction, reformation and/or modification of the consent order. The power and authority of the Court to reform or modify the consent order is challenged, it being asserted by the Teamsters that the consent order must be read literally. It seems appropriate that consideration of such question should have first consideration. The law relating to this controversy is fully expounded by Justice Cardozo in United States v. Swift & Co., 286 U.S. 106, 52 S. Ct. 460, 462, 76 L. Ed. 999, wherein it is said:

 The law so stated by Justice Cardozo has to the knowledge of this Court never been disturbed, altered or in any manner changed. The conclusion is reached that a construction of the consent order requires a determination of the basic purpose for which the order was entered. Bearing in mind that the individual defendants were permitted provisionally to assume office, it is clear from a reading of the consent order, that the basic purpose of the order was to pave the way for a new convention of the International Brotherhood and for a new election of officers in accordance with the provisions of the International constitution. The consent order was entered with the tacit understanding that the evidence which had been adduced at the trial for the purpose of establishing plaintiffs' claim that the Miami convention was rigged through corrupt practices for the purpose of permitting the leaders to control the action of the convention by depriving the rank and file membership of their democratic processes in the selection of delegates to such convention tended to prove that claim.

 The consent order provided for the appointment of a Board of Monitors one member to be selected by plaintiffs, one by the defendants and the third by the Court. The question arises as to what powers the Board of Monitors has. The Court is of opinion and holds that their powers were not limited but included all proper efforts on the part of the Board to assure the rank and file membership of the International organization that a new convention would be conducted according to the provisions of the International constitution and assuring the membership that their democratic processes would not be violated. In other words, the Board of Monitors was empowered to exert every known method of achieving the basic purpose as set forth in the consent order, to wit, that a new convention would be free of corruption and in recognition of the rights of the membership.

 It was tacitly understood that the evidence which had been adduced showed that officials of the International organization and of many of the Locals were corrupt and a menace to the constitutional rights of the members. It, therefore, became necessary for the Monitors to proceed to see that the International and the Locals were freed of corrupt influences by the processes of a general housecleaning. The activities of the Monitors to accomplish such purpose gave rise to many of the difficulties presented by the motions now before the Court. The consent order places this duty and responsibility upon the Board of Monitors.

 It must be kept in mind that the Monitors are officers of the Court and subject to its supervision and direction to effectuate the order according to its spirit and basic purpose. The Court does not subscribe to the view that the duties and privileges of the Monitors were merely advisory.

 It is true that in the early days of the monitorship the Teamsters gave substantial compliance with the orders of recommendation but it may be observed that it those early days the work of the Monitors was preparatory to its vital purposes. The trouble arose when the Monitors proceeded to clean up the International organization and many of the Locals by seeking the dismissal of persons in position of power and authority who were known to be or suspected of being trouble makers and of a mind to control elections and conventions contrary to the constitutional rights of the members. At about this time the Monitors also set out to install by-laws in the Locals which would insure to the membership honest and uncontrolled elections. It was at this point that the Teamsters began to frustrate and block the Monitors in their efforts. In some instances they even refused to confer with the Monitors in a way which amounted to an unspoken rejection of the recommendations of the Monitors. This was in violation of their rights, knowing that if they doubted the reasonableness of such recommendations or doubted that the recommendations were pertinent to the basic purpose of the order, they had recourse to the Court. Upon such matters of disagreement, recourse has always been available to the Court for its ruling and determination of the existing controversy.

 As has been indicated, the consent order is not to be construed by a literal reading of its provisions. The Monitors are officers of the Court and their powers are not limited by the grant of express powers. All other powers reasonably necessary to effect the basic purposes of the order are implied and available to the Monitors and in view of changed circumstances the inherent powers of the Court are at command to achieve the basic purposes of the order.

 Such changed circumstances arose and have continued since the Teamsters ceased cooperation with the Monitors and refused or ignored the reasonable and relevant requests of the Monitors. The conduct of the Teamsters in such respect was in disregard of their obligations to afford good faith compliance with the reasonable and pertinent orders of recommendation issued by the Monitors.

 Such rejection of the orders of recommendation was with full knowledge that the individual defendants were permitted provisionally to assume the duties of the ...


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