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U.S. v. INTERNATIONAL BROTH. OF TEAMSTERS

February 27, 1990

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, ET AL, DEFENDANTS. IN RE APPLICATION VIII BY THE INDEPENDENT ADMINISTRATOR.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This opinion emanates from the voluntary settlement in the action commenced by the plaintiffs United States of America (the "Government") against the defendants International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "IBT") and the IBT's General Executive Board (the "GEB") embodied in the voluntary consent order entered March 14, 1989 (the "Consent Decree"). The remedial provisions in the Consent Decree provided for three Court-appointed officials, the Independent Administrator to oversee the all aspects of the Consent Decree, an Investigations Officer to bring charges against corrupt IBT members, and an Election Officer to oversee the electoral process leading up to and including the 1991 election for International Officers (collectively, the "Court Officers"). The ultimate goal of the Consent Decree is to rid the IBT of the hideous influence of organized crime through the election, prosecution, and other provisions.

I. Background

This current dispute involves the unwillingness of the IBT to publish in the International Teamster the names of IBT members who face pending disciplinary charges filed against them by the Investigations Officer. The Independent Administrator seeks to include these names in his monthly Report to the Membership included in each issue. This disagreement has culminated in Application VIII of the Independent Administrator, which asked this Court to further interpret paragraph F.12.(E) of the Consent Decree ("¶ 12.(E)") — the provision that authorized the Independent Administrator to report to the membership in the International Teamster — as permitting such publication.

The specific problem which led to this Application stems from the IBT's refusal to print in full Report V of the Independent Administrator in the November, 1989 issue of the International Teamster. In that instance, the IBT declined to print the names of five IBT individuals against whom the Investigations Officer had filed charges. The Independent Administrator subsequently sought to publish the manes of those charged in his Report VII in the January issue, of the International Teamster, and this effort was similarly refused by the IBT. This second negation spawned a series of exchanges between the Independent Administrator and the IBT which resulted in Application VIII.

In response to Application VIII, both the IBT and the Independent Administrator seek a series of definitive and modifying determinations. The Independent Administrator asks this Court to rule (1) that the IBT must publish in the International Teamster the names of those charged by the Investigations Officer; (2) that the IBT gain approval from the Independent Administrator for any editorial changes in his monthly reports to the membership; (3) that should the Independent Administrator disagree with the IBT's changes, the matter be brought before this Court by way of Application; (4) while such an Application may pend, the IBT shall refrain from publishing that issue of the International Teamster. For their part, the IBT seeks (1) this Court's approval of their refusal to print the names; and (2) a series of reinterpretations of this Court's earlier rulings — in an Order dated November 16, 1989 (the "November 16 Order") and the Opinion and Order dated January 17, 1990, 728 F. Supp. 1032 (the "January 17, 1990 Opinion") — that interpreted ¶ 12.(E).

II. Discussion

A. Publication of Names in the International Teamster

The positions of the relevant parties regarding the core of this dispute — whether the IBT must publish the names of those charged by the Investigations Officer — are relatively clear. The IBT objects to the Independent Administrator's desire to publish these names in his monthly report lest the IBT be liable for the tort of libel. The IBT further fears that the charged persons may be tainted as guilty before the cases are heard by the Independent Administrator.

The Government has supported the Independent Administrator's right to publish the charges, and refutes the IBT's claims of potential liability. The Government believes that the Independent Administrator's reports are quasi-judicial and privileged. The Government paints the IBT's refusal to print the names of charged persons as censorship, and violative of ¶ 12.(E), the November 19, 1989 Order, and the spirit and intent of the Consent Decree.

As a preliminary matter, this Court views the IBT's fears of tort liability as illusory. It must be clear to the IBT that publishing the names pursuant to an order of this Court leaves them with no alternative other than contempt of court should they fail to comply. The publication of names by the IBT will be done pursuant to order of this Court.

In earlier rulings on this matter, this Court has consistently interpreted ¶ 12.(E) as granting the Independent Administrator a broad mandate to communicate with the IBT membership. This Court cannot emphasize strongly enough the critical importance of regular, accurate, and comprehensive dissemination of information to the rank and file regarding the current status of the Consent Decree. The International Teamster is the only means for the Court Officers to directly reach the membership. Since the implementation of the Consent Decree, the monthly reports of the Independent Administrator have comprehensively summarized the ongoing implementation of the Consent Decree. The agressive response of the IBT to those reports testifies to the fact that these monthly communications are widely read and understood by the membership.

While in their papers the parties discuss a number of potential issues, the only relevant point of inquiry is whether ¶ 12.(E) of the Consent Decree should be interpreted to permit the dissemination of this information. Upon review of that provision, and the spirit and intent of the Consent Decree, that specific request of the Independent Administrator is granted.

In this instance, this Court finds that the benefits to the IBT membership of receiving full information about the Consent Decree, specifically the names of those charged, is highly useful information to the membership. The rank and file are the ultimate interested parties in this remedial scheme, and they have a right to be informed of all the actions that happen in this litigation. To this end, this Court has previously found that under ¶ 12.(E), the Independent Administrator should have monthly communications with the membership, either in the International Teamster, or by direct mail. Further, under ¶ 12.(E), this Court has ordered that all orders of this Court be published in the International Teamster, so that the membership would ...


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