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U.S. v. INTERNATIONAL BROTH.

May 6, 1991

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION & ORDER

This opinion emanates from the voluntary settlement in the action commenced by plaintiff 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 provisions in the Consent Decree provided for three Court-appointed officials, the Independent Administrator to oversee the remedial provisions, the Investigations Officer to bring charges against corrupt IBT members, and the Election Officer to oversee the electoral process leading up to and including the 1991 election for International Officers (collectively, the "Court Officers"). The goal of the Consent Decree is to rid the IBT of the hideous influence of organized crime through the election and prosecution provisions.

On March 19, 1991, the Government moved this Court for (i) a declaration that the function of the International Union nominating convention as set out in ¶ F.12.(D) of the Consent Decree may not be altered except by compliance with ¶ L.17 of the Consent Decree; and (ii) an order enjoining the IBT, as the representative of the GEB, and its employees, members, agents, attorneys and affiliates (including local unions, joint councils, and area conferences [hereinafter the "subordinate entities"]) from taking any action to alter the function of the International Union nominating convention as set out in ¶ F.12.(D) of the Consent Decree. This Court held oral argument on this motion on March 20, 1991, after which the parties submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.

This dispute arises because the Government has reasons to believe that constituencies of the IBT are planning for the IBT convention delegates to "vote out" the Consent Decree, more particularly, the provisions for direct rank and file elections of International Officers. The Government contends that with the Consent Decree's electoral provisions voted out, the IBT would attempt to revert to its prior election process. Thus, the convention delegates themselves elect the General President at the convention, eliminating the rank and file vote, and thereby disenfranchising the membership. The Government seeks to prevent this situation. The Government asks this Court to rule on the legal status of provisions of the Consent Decree.

The validity of the Consent Decree's electoral changes to the IBT constitution are no longer at issue. Accordingly, the relevant ruling for this Court to make is a substantive determination of the legal effect of the Consent Decree in the event that the convention delegates vote against its constitutional changes. In the alternative, this Court will also rule on the Government's motion de novo.

I. Background

  The Consent Decree settled the litigation between the
Government and the IBT (the "underlying litigation"). As has
been discussed more fully in opinions of this Court and the
Court of Appeals this RICO litigation involved allegations of
a massive racketeering enterprise and conspiracy to
participate in that enterprise. See, e.g. United States v.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, et al., 931 F.2d 177
(2d Cir. 1991) (Election Rules); United States v.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters, et al., 907 F.2d 277
(2d Cir. 1990) (All Writs Act injunction); United States v.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, et al., 905 F.2d 610
(2d Cir. 1990) (Friedman & Hughes); United States v.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, et al., 708 F. Supp. 1388
 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (Opinion denying motion to dismiss
complaint in underlying litigation).

The Consent Decree amended the electoral and disciplinary provisions of the IBT constitution. By ¶ 9(a), the entire Consent Decree immediately became part of the IBT constitution:

  The IBT Constitution shall be deemed and hereby
  is amended to incorporate and conform with all of
  the terms set forth in the order.

Paragraph 9(b) further stated that the provisions of the Consent Decree would formally be voted a part of the IBT constitution by the delegates to the 1991 IBT Convention.

  By no later than the conclusion of the IBT
  convention to be held in 1991, the IBT shall have
  formally amended the IBT constitution to
  incorporate and conform with all of the terms set
  forth in this order by presenting said terms to
  the delegates for a vote. If the IBT has not
  formally so amended the IBT constitution by that
  date, the Government retains the right to seek
  any appropriate action, including enforcement of
  this order, contempt, or reopening this
  litigation.

Among its substantive provisions, the Consent Decree amended the IBT constitution's then existing procedure for electing the General President and International Officers. Under the prior system, officers of IBT subordinate entities had been ex officio delegates to the IBT convention. At such a convention, those delegates would directly elect the General President and International Officers. The Consent Decree created a three-step election process culminating in direct rank and file secret ballot elections. First, the local unions have been holding local secret ballot delegate elections during the fall of 1990 and the spring of 1991. Second, these elected delegates will attend the 1991 IBT national convention to be held June 24-28 in Epcot Center, Florida (the "convention"). There, the delegates will vote (i) to approve the Consent Decree's changes to the IBT constitution as provided by ¶ 9 and ¶ F.12.(D) of the Consent Decree, and (ii) to nominate candidates for IBT International Officers. In the fall of 1991, the IBT will hold a union-wide, direct, secret ballot election of the rank and file for the International Officers.

Since the Consent Decree was executed on March 14, 1989, its scope, terms, and meaning have been repeatedly challenged. With respect to the disciplinary provisions of the Consent Decree, the Court of Appeals and this Court have now determined that the Investigations Officer and Independent Administrator are standins for the General President and GEB, who properly delegated their disciplinary power to those Court Officers pursuant to Article XXVI, section 2 of the IBT Constitution. United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, supra, 931 F.2d 177, 184; United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, supra, 905 F.2d at 622; December 27, 1990 Opinion & Order, 754 F. Supp. 333, 337 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); September 18, 1990 Opinion & Order, 745 F. Supp. 189, 191-92 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); August 27, 1990 Opinion & Order, 745 F. Supp. 908, 911 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); March 13, 1990 Opinion & Order, 743 F. Supp. 155, 159-60, aff'd 905 F.2d 610, 622; January 17, 1990 Opinion & Order, 728 F. Supp. 1032, 1048-57, aff'd 907 F.2d 277 (2d Cir. 1990); November 2, 1989 Memorandum & Order, 725 F. Supp. 162, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 1989); Joint Council 73, et al. v. Carberry, et al., 741 F. Supp. 491, 493 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); Local 27 v. Carberry, et al., July 20, 1990 at 3-4, 1990 WL 108348 (S.D.N.Y. 1990).

The validity of the Consent Decree's electoral changes are also settled. This Court and the Court of Appeals in turn have held that the electoral changes were properly within the purview of the General President and GEB and binding upon the entire IBT. United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, supra, 931 F.2d 177 (1991). The scope of the Election Officer's duties, October 18, 1989 Memorandum & Order, 723 F. Supp. 203, stay and certification denied 728 F. Supp. 920 (S.D.N.Y. 1989); appeal dismissed, No. 89-6252 (2d Cir. Dec. 13, 1989), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 110 S.Ct. 2618, 110 L.Ed.2d 639 (1990), aff'd, 931 F.2d 177, and approved a comprehensive set of rules applicable to all facets of the IBT that govern this historic election. July 10, 1990 Opinion & Order, 742 F. Supp. 94 (S.D.N.Y. 1990), aff'd, 931 F.2d 177.

The Consent Decree's constitutional changes are fully effective and binding on the entire 1.7 million member IBT. Challenges by subordinate entities and individual IBT members to the validity of the disciplinary provisions and electoral provisions have been repeatedly rejected by the Court of Appeals and this Court. See, e.g., United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, supra, 905 F.2d 610, aff'g March 13, 1990 Opinion & Order, supra, (challenges to disciplinary powers of Court Officers rejected); United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, supra, 931 F.2d 177, aff'g July 10, 1990 Opinion & Order (challenges of electoral process to subordinate entities rejected).

Paragraph L.17 of the Consent Decree, the future practices provision, sets out the obligation of the parties not to alter the understanding of both parties as to the terms of the settlement. Paragraph L.17 states:

  The parties intend the provisions set forth
  herein to govern future IBT practices in those
  areas. To the extent the IBT wishes to make any
  changes, constitutional or otherwise, in those
  provisions, the IBT shall give prior written
  notice to the plaintiff, through the undersigned.
  If the plaintiff then objects to the proposed
  changes as inconsistent with the terms and
  objectives of this order, the change shall not
  occur; provided, however, that the IBT shall then
  have the right to seek a determination from the
  Court, of after the entry of judgment dismissing
  this action, from this Court or any other federal
  court of competent jurisdiction as to whether the
  proposed change is consistent with the terms and
  objectives set forth herein.

Paragraph L.17 has been interpreted as requiring approval of any changes to the IBT constitution that would alter the background understanding of the parties as to disciplinary or electoral matters:

  [T]he IBT [must] refrain from any unilateral
  changes, `constitutional or otherwise,' in the
  broad areas covered by the Consent Decree.
  Paragraph [L.]17 was obviously intended to
  protect the background understanding of both
  parties as to what existing rules, regulations,
  and constitutional provisions would govern the
  IBT.

United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, supra, 905 F.2d at 620 (quoting March 13 Opinion & Order, supra, 743 F. Supp. at 163).

II. Discussion

In the instant matter, this Court must consider (i) ¶ K.16, the application provision of the Consent Decree, (ii) two motions to intervene, (iii) the substantive legal status of the delegates vote at the IBT convention, and (iv) the Government's motion.

A. The Application Provision of the Consent Decree

As a threshold matter, the IBT argues that this Court should not entertain the Government's motion or make any ruling regarding the upcoming convention. The Government argues that the IBT consented to this Court ruling on the instant motion by way of ¶ K.16. I agree.

Paragraph K.16 authorized this Court to "entertain any future applications" by the parties, which includes interpretations and rulings relating to the Consent Decree. Such rulings have been sought and issued numerous times over the past two years. See October 18, 1989 Memorandum & Order, supra, (interpreting ¶ F.12 to determine scope of duties of Election Officer); November 2, 1989 Memorandum & Order, supra, (interpreting ¶ D.5 to determine statute of limitations for bringing disciplinary charges); November 16, 1989 Order, (interpreting ¶ F.12.(E) to determine the scope of the Independent Administrator's right to publish a monthly communication in The International Teamster); December 12, 1989 Memorandum & Order, 726 F. Supp. 943 (S.D.N Y 1989), (interpreting ¶ E.10 to determine when collateral lawsuits interfere with work of Court Officers); January 17, 1990 Opinion & Order, supra, (interpreting scope of applications to Court under ¶ K.16; status of ¶ F.12 changes); February 27, 1990 Memorandum & Order, 735 F. Supp. 502 (S.D.N Y 1990), (interpreting ¶ F.12.(E) to permit publication of names of those charged in disciplinary proceedings in The International Teamster); March 13, 1990 Opinion & Order, supra, (determining Independent Administrator's power to interpret disciplinary portions of IBT constitution by ¶ F.12.(A); inability of IBT to interpret disciplinary provisions of IBT constitution without complying with ¶ L.17); April 9, 1990 Memorandum & Order, 735 F. Supp. 519 (S.D.N.Y. 1990), (interpreting "reasonable cause" requirement for sworn statements set out at ¶ F.12.(C)(c) and (d)); July 10, 1990 Opinion & Order, supra, (interpreting ¶ F.12.(D) scope of Election Officer duties; ¶ E.10 injunction); November 28, 1990 Memorandum & Order, 133 F.R.D. 99 (S.D.N.Y. 1990), (interpreting cause requirement to take statements of IBT agents at ¶ F.12.(C)(i)(d)).

The scope of K.16 is broad enough to warrant the court to consider prospective matters that may threaten the letter, spirit and intent of this Decree. The IBT's assertion that this motion is speculative is merely a play on words. Further, the IBT has specifically refused to deny the Government's allegations. On March 20, 1991, I directly asked IBT General Counsel Grady whether the IBT disputed the Government's allegations. On behalf of the IBT, General Counsel Grady did not deny those allegations. (Transcript, March 20, 1991 at 24-25).

This matter would never even have to be addressed had the IBT been candid and forthright and assured me that no such plan was in place. The fact that the did not leads to ...


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