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MOSCHETTA v. CROSS

November 4, 1964

Ermin MOSCHETTA et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
James G. CROSS et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TAMM

By an order dated November 6, 1962, this Court entered judgment in behalf of Mozart G. Ratner for counsel fees and expenses in the amount of $ 54,884.91, on account of work performed and disbursements incurred by Mr. Ratner and attorneys associated with him in the above-entitled case. The Court, in its order of November 6, 1962, provided that the payment of this judgment was to be effected against the named plaintiffs and the entire membership of the Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of America, jointly and severally. The Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of America appealed from this Court's order.

The United States Court of Appeals for this Circuit, in an opinion dated June 11, 1964, Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of America v. Ratner, 118 U.S.App.D.C. 269, 335 F.2d 691 reversed this Court's ruling insofar as it applied to the Union and remanded the case to this Court with directions to evaluate the services rendered by Mr. Ratner 'in terms of value of the benefits afforded to the International and its membership.' This remand directed that since the liability of the International and its membership did not here rest upon a contract, 'quantum meruit provides the rule which, we are satisfied, must be applied in an ascertainment of that value.'

 Pursuant to the remand from the Court of Appeals, this Court has conducted a hearing at which counsel for Mr. Ratner and the International Union were present and argued their respective positions, and counsel have filed memoranda stating their positions in the present situation.

 The proceedings in this case have been lengthy and have extended over several years. The excellent opinion of Judge Danaher in the Court of Appeals opinion of June 11, 1964, succinctly outlines the substantive history of this litigation. Mr. Ratner's activities as counsel first for the five plaintiffs who initiated this class action on behalf of the entire membership of the International Union were originally predicated upon a contract of employment, the terms of which are set forth in detail in the pleadings in the case. Prior to Mr. Ratner's motion for assessment of attorneys fees, which motion is the subject of the present proceeding, Mr. Ratner and his associates had been paid some $ 70,000.00 in fees and expenses. The present proceedings relate, then, to but the terminal period of Mr. Ratner's professional services to the named plaintiffs. This situation, consequently, creates a rather difficult problem, because the Court in evaluating the 'terms of value of the benefits afforded to the International and its membership' must view the case in its entirety. Steps taken by Mr. Ratner, through his direction or by Court action, which were initiated in the period for which attorneys fees had previously been paid, of necessity, establish a foundation, a cause, a necessity, or resulted in further action during the period between April 19, 1961 and January, 1962. The benefits accruing to the International Union and its membership must be appraised and evaluated upon the basis of the total impact of Mr. Ratner's continued action from the beginning of his association with the case to the termination of his employment.

 In this Court's order of November 6, 1962, the Court specifically pointed out, 'that this suit was initiated and prosecuted in the interest of the Union membership as a whole and such fruits as flowed from the proceedings herein were for the benefit of the Union and all its members; namely, consisting of:

 '(a) A court-ordered convention conducted in accordance with the lawful provisions of the Union's Constitution;

 '(b) Court orders protecting intra-Union pre-convention political activity from illegal officer restraint and reprisal; and

 '(c) Court proceedings to enforce this Court's orders, as aforesaid.'

 'Never before has any rank-and-file organization like the Local Unions Reunification Committee been successful in a fight to remove from office entrenched international union officials. 'The BCW Convention has proved that rank-and-file members determined to see their international union properly run can do the job themselves, within their union, unassisted by federal law or any other outside influences, and can, by their own determination and will take control of their union and of its convention processes and make it work for them.'

 The references are, of course, to the convention effectuated as a result of the Court order in this action.

 The Court concludes that in attempting to measure the quantum meruit value of the case and Mr. Ratner's participation therein in terms of value to the entire Union membership, the Court must appraise first the over-all value of Mr. Ratner's services to the Union and then deduct therefrom the counsel fees already paid to Mr. Ratner.

 The economic value of Union membership is so universally recognized that it is unnecessary for the Court to dwell upon it. Economic gains effected by strong, honest labor unions in behalf of their membership in the past 30 years are ample proof of the necessity for and value of union membership. To be effective as a bargaining agent, to justify the prestige of leadership, and to effectuate the fundamental purposes of union organizations, a union must be honestly administered in behalf of the entire membership. Misuse of union funds by union officers, misconduct so flagrant as to be the subject of common knowledge, in short, any personal or official action by union officials which brings discredit upon the union reflects materially not only upon the effectiveness of union organizations but the value of membership in the union. A discredited union loses prestige which is essential for substantive accomplishment, with resulting loss of membership value to the individual members. The value to members of union affiliation diminishes as the union's reputation and effectiveness decline.

 The International Union in the present case was, at the time of the initiation of this action, a thoroughly discredited union. The International's principal officer was the subject of such unfavorable newspaper and other publicity that a shadow of doubt and suspicion was cast over the entire union organization. The court action accomplished through the present case resulted in a purging of the offending officer and restoration of the Union to the ...


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