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BISHOP v. INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BRIDGE

March 1, 2004.

CARL E. BISHOP, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BRIDGE, STRUCTURAL, ORNAMENTAL AND REINFORCING IRON WORKERS, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GLADYS KESSLER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs, Carl E. Bishop and Oscar Ingram, members of Atlanta Local 387 ("Local"), bring suit against the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers ("International"), which controls the Local under a trusteeship. Plaintiffs allege that certain provisions of the International's constitution violate their rights to free speech and to sue under Title I of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 411, et seq. They also allege that the International's disciplinary procedures violate their right to due process under Title I of the LMRDA.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. Page 2

 I. BACKGROUND*fn1

  Plaintiffs, Carl Bishop and Oscar Ingram, are members of Atlanta Local 387, which the International controls under a trusteeship. Plaintiff Ingram was a Trustee of the Local.

  In the Spring of 2002, Plaintiffs became concerned that the Local's Business Manager, Hugh Dean Dryden, Jr., had misused Local funds, specifically, the Local's credit card to purchase airline tickets for personal travel, and the Local's cell phone for personal purposes. Seeking "counsel and assistance," Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J., at 2, Plaintiffs contacted Al Smith, a former Local member who, after accusing Local officials of corruption and hiring hall abuse, had been expelled in 1997 based on charges that he had "fabricated lies" and "slandered" Local officers. Pls.' Statement of Mat. Facts, ¶ 8. See Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 3. Plaintiff Bishop also contacted the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Legal & Policy Center "in an effort to learn what legal rights he might have to gain access to the Local's financial records." Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J., at 3.

  In August 2002, disciplinary charges were filed against both Plaintiff Bishop and Ingram. Plaintiff Bishop was charged with Page 3 "slandering a brother member" in violation of Article XIX, Section 10 of the International's constitution and "violating his oath" under Article XXVI, Section 18. See Pls.' Statement of Mat. Facts, 1 3. Plaintiff Ingram was charged with revealing the business or proceedings of the Local or actions of its members to outsiders, in violation of Article XXVI, Section 18. See id., ¶ 4.

  In September 2002, Plaintiffs were tried separately. Business Manager Dryden served as the prosecutor in both disciplinary proceedings. Bobby Winkler, a member of the Local's Executive Board which heard the charges against Plaintiff Bishop, had previously filed disciplinary charges against Bishop accusing Bishop of costing the Local money defending against a lawsuit by the Department of Labor. See id., ¶ 11. These charges were dismissed at the outset of Bishop's hearing. Id. Eight of the twelve jurors who heard the charges against Plaintiff Ingram had previously signed a petition circulated by Local officials demanding Ingram's removal as a Trustee of the Local. See id., ¶ 10. Both Plaintiffs were found guilty and ordered to pay fines and to apologize. Plaintiffs appealed their convictions to the International's General Executive Board which modified the penalties but upheld the guilty verdicts.

  On February 25, 2003, Plaintiffs filed the instant action. By letter dated April 10, 2003, the International informed Plaintiffs that, "on further review," the General Executive Board had decided Page 4 "to reverse the imposition of fine and request for apology in your case[s] so that no discipline is imposed and to dismiss the charges against you." Pls.' Statement of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 14. The International also noted that "[p]ast actions of the Local Union in the conduct of its trial [s] were taken pursuant to advice given by this Headquarters." Id.

  Plaintiffs seek a judgment declaring unlawful the following provisions of the International's constitution: (1) paragraphs 4, 6, and 7 of Article XIX, Section 10; (2) the prohibition on discussing union matters with outsiders in Article XXVI, Section 18; and (3) the third and fourth sentences of Article XIX, Section 4. Plaintiffs also seek to enjoin the International from applying any of the challenged provisions to discipline union members in any manner, and to require removal of the challenged language from all future printings of its constitution. In addition, Plaintiffs request that the International be ordered to publish a notice of the Court's decision in its newsletter "The Ironworkers." Finally, Plaintiffs seek a judgment declaring that the International's disciplinary procedures violate their right to due process under § 101(a)(5) of the LMRDA.

 II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

  Summary judgment should be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with any affidavits or declarations, show that there is no Page 5 genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

  In determining whether the moving party has met this burden, "the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); see Washington Post Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989). Once the moving party makes its initial showing, however, the nonmoving party's opposition must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must demonstrate "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324; McKinney, 765 F.2d 1135. Accordingly, the non-moving party is "required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable [fact-finder] to find" in its favor. Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

 III. ANALYSIS

  Plaintiffs challenge as unlawful the following underlined language in the International's constitution: Page 6

  Article XIX, Section 10 ("Charges and Trials"):
Charges may be preferred against any . . . member of the Association for commission of any one or more of the following offenses:
(4) Defrauding, slandering or otherwise wronging a member of the Association.
(6) Inciting or attempting to incite dissatisfaction or dissension among any of the members of Local Unions of the Association.
(7) Publishing or circulating among the membership false reports or misrepresentations.
Pls.' Statement of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 5.
 Article XXVI, Section 18 ("Obligation of Members"):
I hereby solemnly and sincerely pledge my honor that I will not reveal any private business or proceedings of this Local Union or of the International Association, or any individual actions of its members. . . .
Id. at ¶ 6.
  Article XIX, Section 4:
No suit or other action at law or equity shall be brought in any court . . . until and unless all rights, remedies and reasonable provisions for hearing, trial and appeal within the International Association shall have been properly followed and exhausted. . . . This provision shall require resort to internal remedies for a period not exceeding four (4) months. Violation of this Section shall be sufficient cause for expulsion from membership in this International Association and its Local Unions. In addition, any officer, member or Local Union violating this provision shall be subject to a fine equal to the full amount of the costs ...

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