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RICKS v. SIMONS

March 25, 1991

JAMES D. RICKS, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM H. SIMONS, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 CHARLES R. RICHEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 I. BACKGROUND

 The Plaintiff, James D. Ricks, is a teacher in the District of Columbia public schools ("DCPS") who desires to submit a nominating petition on or before April 30, 1991 for the presidency of the Washington Teachers' Union ("WTU"). However, in November of 1990, after years of litigation surrounding the Plaintiff's membership status in the WTU, an Arbitrator rendered a decision on disciplinary charges against the Plaintiff. The Arbitrator upheld five of ten charges brought by the WTU, and expelled Plaintiff from the union for a four-year period. See Arbitrator's Report, Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and to Reopen Action, Attachment 1. (hereinafter, "Arbitrator's Report"). Plaintiff then moved for a temporary restraining order in March of 1991, and requested that this Court reopen and reverse the Arbitrator's decision.

 The Court heard the parties' arguments on March 22, 1991. At that time, the parties agreed to consolidate the temporary restraining order with a hearing for preliminary injunction, and also agreed that the Court could now render a decision on the merits at this time pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a)(2). Moreover, the parties agreed that the Court could render a final decision on the basis of the current record and the papers filed on the temporary restraining order.

 II. ANALYSIS

 A. Because the Arbitrator's Findings Are Supported By the Evidence, and Because a Union's View as to What Constitutes Wrongful Conduct Deserves Deference, the Court Will Not Reopen the Proceedings.

 The Plaintiff claims that the WTU invalidly prosecuted him because the statute of limitations in the WTU constitution and by-laws barred all of the charges. *fn1" The Plaintiff claims that, because some of the wrongful actions occurred in 1984 and 1985 when Ricks admittedly was not a member of the WTU, the WTU could not have instituted charges #2, 4 or 9 at all. *fn2" Moreover, the Plaintiff claims that, even if the WTU could have instituted charges #2, 4 and 9, these charges should have been brought within six months of discovery of wrong-doing. Furthermore, Ricks alleges that charges #1 and 3 *fn3" are time-barred because they were not brought within six months of discovery and are part of an invalid "revision" of charges. The Arbitrator considered these challenges and upheld the WTU's right to bring all of the charges.

 Before discussing the Plaintiff's specific claims, the Court must point out that union disciplinary proceedings generally are not subject to intensive judicial scrutiny. In International Brotherhood of Boilermakers v. Hardeman, 401 U.S. 233, 244, 28 L. Ed. 2d 10, 91 S. Ct. 609 (1971), the Supreme Court explained that LMRDA "was not intended to authorize courts to determine the scope of offenses for which a union may discipline its members." The Court examined the legislative intent behind LMDRA, and noted that, under the statute, "a union may discipline its members for offenses not proscribed by written rules at all." Id. The Court also noted that, in light of the union's broad disciplinary power, "it is surely a futile exercise for a court to construe the written rules in order to determine whether particular conduct falls within or without their scope." Hardeman, 401 U.S. at 244-45.

 LMRDA guarantees workers a full and fair hearing and "this guarantee requires the charging party to provide some evidence at the disciplinary hearing to support the charges made." Hardeman, 401 U.S. at 246. However, courts "have consistently held that a union's violation of its constitution or by-laws 'does not per se amount to a violation' of the Landrum-Griffin Act." Bunz v. Moving Picture Mach. Operators, 186 U.S. App. D.C. 124, 567 F.2d 1117, 1120 (D.C. Cir. 1977), citing, Ritz v. O'Donnell, 413 F. Supp. 1365, 1370 (D.D.C. 1976), aff'd on other grounds, 185 U.S. App. D.C. 66, 566 F.2d 731 (D.C. Cir. 1977). If there is a violation of the union's constitution or by-laws, a plaintiff must demonstrate that this deviation deprived him of a fair hearing, see Curtis v. International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, 687 F.2d 1024 (7th Cir. 1982), or denied him rights guaranteed by LMRDA. Bunz, 567 F.2d at 1120. The Court evaluates the Plaintiff's claims in this context, and finds that the Arbitrator's decision was supported by the evidence, and that the Plaintiff's rights to a full and fair hearing were not abridged.

 1. CHARGES #2, 4 AND 9

 Charges # 2, 4 and 9 were supported by the evidence. As the Arbitrator found, the WTU did not have knowledge of the extent of the Plaintiff's relationship with the rival NEA union by April of 1984, when Plaintiff Ricks terminated his membership in the WTU. While some members of the WTU obviously were aware of Plaintiff's opinions regarding the NEA, there was no evidence that the WTU had discovered the extent of Plaintiff's "insurrectionist" activities and his institutional ties to NEA prior to the time when Ricks' left the union. In fact, the Arbitrator uncovered evidence that Plaintiff actively attempted to conceal his activities on behalf of the NEA during this time. Because the Plaintiff's institutional ties to the NEA formed the crux of the WTU's charges against him, this Court upholds the Arbitrator's predicate factual findings on the discovery and tolling issues.

 Plaintiff Ricks now argues, however, that the WTU should have brought charges during the intervening 1984-1989 period as soon as his relationship to NEA was uncovered. In making this argument, Plaintiff alleges that he was still officially a member of the union during the 1984-1989 period because the Executive Board did not terminate his membership for non-payment of ...


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