the charges brought by the WTU are time-barred by the WTU's Constitution and by-laws because they were not brought within six months of discovery of Plaintiff's alleged wrong-doing; and (2) the charges violate his First Amendment rights of speech and association because they are a mere pretext, designed to prevent a candidate with pro-NEA views from launching a successful candidacy against the incumbent WTU administration. Upon consideration of the Plaintiff's motion, the Defendant's response thereto, the entire record in this case, and the applicable law, the Court hereby denies the Plaintiff's Motion and dismisses the case on the merits.
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.
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.
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
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 dues until March 9, 1989. For numerous reasons, the Court will not entertain this argument here.
First, the Plaintiff is barred from asserting this argument by res judicata. In an earlier stage of this litigation, the Plaintiff claimed that he was a member of the WTU and deserved LMRDA protection in any disciplinary proceedings brought against him. The Court resolved this claim against the Plaintiff and found that the Plaintiff "was an active member. . . from 1967 until sometime in April of 1984." Ricks v. Simons, et al., Civ. 90-249, Mem. Op. at 1 (D.D.C. 1990). However, despite his non-membership status, the Court denominated the Plaintiff a "member in substance" so that he could qualify for LMRDA protection in any subsequent disciplinary proceedings. Id. During the prosecution of this previous suit, the Plaintiff could have argued that only the action of the Executive Board could affect a final termination, but the Plaintiff did not make this claim. Moreover, the Plaintiff never appealed this Court's decision. It remains a valid, final judgment on the merits of the claim of membership during the 1984-1989 period. The Plaintiff's claims is barred because "under res judicata, a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action." Kremer v. Chemical Constr. Corp., 456 U.S. 461, n. 6, 72 L. Ed. 2d 262, 102 S. Ct. 1883 (1982) reh'g denied, 458 U.S. 1133, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1405, 103 S. Ct. 20.
Secondly, the Plaintiff has admitted his non-membership status. As the Defendants correctly point out, the Plaintiff has disavowed his membership status in papers filed with the Court on numerous occasions. See, e.g., Plaintiff's Verified Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, Civ. 90-249, at para. 3 ("Incident to taking leave from DCPS effective April 30, 1984, Plaintiff gave up membership of Defendant Local 6.") The Plaintiff cannot recharacterize his story now.
Finally, the Arbitrator reviewed the circumstances of the Plaintiff's withdrawal from the WTU in April, 1984. These factual findings are supported by the evidence and belie any claim that the Plaintiff had membership status during the 1984-1989 period. Arbitrator's Report at 1-8.
Having discovered the Plaintiff's infractions after he was no longer a member of the union, the union did not attempt prosecution until after Ricks' rejoined in September of 1989. The Arbitrator found that the decision not to prosecute until after Ricks rejoined the union as an active member was justified, and this Court agrees. As the Arbitrator noted,
pursuit of such charges when Ricks was no longer the (sic) WTU member, when he had abandoned DCPS employment, and when there was no prospect of his return, would have made such a (sic) proceedings a costly futility absent any jurisdiction to punish him.