§ 482(a). Finally, if the Secretary of Labor "finds probable cause to believe that a violation . . . has occurred . . . he shall . . . bring a civil action . . ." Section 402(b), 29 U.S.C. § 482(b).
Marshall v. Local Union No. 639, Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of Am., Inc., 593 F.2d 1297, 1301 (D.C. Cir. 1979). As a consequence of this framework, "the ADA precludes any private action by disappointed office seekers or other union members to contest the results of an election." Sadlowski v. Marshall, 464 F. Supp. 858, 862 (D.D.C. 1979).
Accordingly, if this lawsuit constitutes a challenge of either the 1990 election or the rerun election, elections "already conducted" under 29 U.S.C. § 483, then the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because this action does not fall within the remedies of 29 U.S.C. § 482, i.e., the DOL did not bring suit upon a finding of probable cause. The Smith-ROU asserts that subject matter jurisdiction exists for this action because it arises under ERISA and does not present a challenge to either the 1990 election or the rerun election under Title IV. I find otherwise.
A review of the pleadings makes clear that the relief sought by the parties compels the Court to determine to whom the Plans should disburse monies owed to the ROU. The Smith-ROU originally instituted suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York demanding the monies owed to the ROU based upon the 1990 election and the December 1990 DOL letter suggesting that Mr. Smith is president of the ROU. The intervention of Mr. DeLong into the action made the materiality of the ROU presidency more apparent in its direct challenge to the Smith-ROU's authorization for instituting suit on behalf of the ROU and its entreaty for the monies owed by the Plans. Finally, the Smith-ROU's cross-claim against Mr. DeLong made the ROU presidency an even more conspicuous element of the action by alleging that Mr. Harper falsely maintains that he is president of the ROU and by seeking an injunction essentially preventing the ROU from operating pursuant to the instructions of Mr. Harper and his supporters.
The Smith-ROU would have the Court focus upon the ERISA aspects of this matter in order to find subject matter jurisdiction. I find such an analysis to be shortsighted and misleading. If the Court were to accept jurisdiction and then decide to whom the Plans should dispense funds owed to the ROU, the Court would effectively endorse either Mr. Smith or Mr. Harper as president of the ROU. Either outcome would necessarily validate the 1990 election or the rerun election and, as a corollary, invalidate the election not validated.
The Court is unwilling to place such a blind eye to the consequences of its actions under Title IV.
Courts have often previously considered the implications their rulings would have under Title IV in analogous situations. In Anson v. National Maritime Union of Am., 595 F. Supp. 847, 850 (S.D.N.Y. 1984), plaintiffs asserted claims framed around Title I of the LMRDA regarding the rights of union members, see 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(1)-(2). The claims addressed the nominating process for union delegates to a convention and the use of union funds to promote candidacies. Despite the manner in which plaintiffs presented their claims, the Court recognized that the claims "in substance" included violations of Title IV and constituted a challenge to an election. 595 F. Supp. at 850-51. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 595 F. Supp at 851. See also Molina v. Union de Trabajadores de Muelles y Ramas Anexas, Local 1740, UTM-ILA, 762 F.2d 166, 168 (1st Cir. 1985) (Title I claim did not "escape" bar of 29 U.S.C. § 403 where claim required court to address validity of election); Local 75A, United Furniture Workers of Am. v. Scarbrough, 122 L.R.R.M. 2050 (D. Md. 1986) (challenge of candidate's eligibility amounted to dispute of election's validity).
Similarly in Wolfson v. Newspaper and Mail Deliverers' Union of New York and Vicinity, 713 F. Supp. 700 (S.D.N.Y. 1989), two candidates for a union presidency sought to have the Court address election issues under the pretense of a contract dispute concerning with the union's constitution. The Court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it found the essence of the complaint to deal with post-election Title IV relief. 713 F. Supp. at 703. See also Brown v. American Arbitration Ass'n, 717 F. Supp. 195, 202 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (plaintiffs' allegations for breach of contract dismissed for failure to state a claim because "gravamen" of complaint challenged validity of union election).
Despite the Smith-ROU's attempt to wrap its claims around ERISA, this action directly presents the question of whether Mr. Smith or Mr. Harper is the president of the ROU. Because answering that question requires the Court to test the 1990 election and the rerun election, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the limitations of Title IV.
For the reasons stated above, the Court finds that it lack subject matter jurisdiction to decide the merits of the claims before it. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment dismissing this action; the parties shall bear their own costs.
Dated: New York, New York
January 28, 1993
Loretta A. Preska, U.S.D.J.