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UNITED STATES v. DISTRICT COUNCIL

July 24, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, against DISTRICT COUNCIL OF NEW YORK CITY AND VICINITY OF THE UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA et al., Defendant.

CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR., U.S.S.D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAIGHT

HAIGHT, Senior District Judge :

 This matter is currently before the Court on motions by two separately represented groups of petitioners to intervene in this action.

 The petitioners represented by the firm of Dublirer, Haydon, Straci & Victor, hereinafter referred to as the "Macagnone Petitioners," seek leave to intervene as of right pursuant to Rule 24(a), Fed. R. Civ. P., or alternatively by permission under Rule 24(b), and also for class certification under Rule 23. The second group of petitioners, represented by the firm of Bisceglie & Friedman and hereinafter referred to as the "Local Petitioners," join in the motion to intervene, although not in the motion for class certification.

 The purpose of the proposed interventions, according to both sets of petitioners, is to urge the Court to (1) reject a series of restructuring measures (the "Restructuring Plan") proposed by the District Council of New York City and Vicinity of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (the "District Council") and its parent union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (the "UBC"); and (2) "restore the democratic process of the locals." Macagnone Petitioners' Notice of Motion at P 2; Local Petitioners' Notice of Motion at P 2. *fn1" The government, the IRO and the District Council oppose all aspects of these petitions.

 For the reasons set forth below, the motions are denied in their entirety and the petitions are dismissed.

 I.

 The long history of this case has been set forth in this Court's prior opinions, including its opinion dated July 7, 1997 in a related case, Devine v. McCarron, 96 Civ. 5093 (CSH). Familiarity with all these opinions is presumed. For present purposes, it is sufficient to recite the following facts.

 The Consent Decree permanently enjoined all current and future officers, employees and members of the District Council and its constituent locals from engaging in any racketeering activity, from knowingly associating with any member of any La Cosa Nostra crime family or other criminal group, and from obstructing or otherwise improperly interfering with the implementation of the Consent Decree. Consent Decree, P 2. The Consent Decree also required the constituent locals to adopt certain job referral rules and procedures, and prohibited any District Council officer from simultaneously holding any elected, appointed or salaried position in any local union. Consent Decree, PP 5, 10. To effectuate and implement the terms of the Consent Decree, an Investigations and Review Officer ("IRO") was appointed by the Court and given a variety of "powers, rights, and responsibilities." Consent Decree, P 4.

 One of the IRO's duties under the Consent Decree was to draft rules for and supervise a rank-and-file secret ballot election for the District Council Executive Board. That election was held in June 1995, and resulted in the re-election of Devine and several other District Council officers who were defendants in the original civil RICO litigation. Finding no violations of the election rules that may have effected the outcome of the election, the IRO certified the results to the Court on October 30, 1995.

 However, in the spring of 1996, the IRO found evidence of the continuing influence of organized crime over the District Council and financial mismanagement at the District Council. The IRO presented that evidence to the General President of the UBC, Douglas McCarron. On June 25, 1996, McCarron invoked his authority under the UBC constitution and federal labor law by placing the District Council under supervision. *fn2" As part of the supervision, the five sitting officers of the District Council were removed and Douglas Banes, First Vice President of the UBC, was appointed supervisor.

 In addition to imposing supervision on the District Council, the UBC announced plans to restructure District Council operations. News of an impending restructuring prompted a substantial number of rank-and-file union members to write to the Court, some opposing and some supporting the proposed reforms. Following a hearing on April 3, 1997, at which additional rank-and-file union members expressed their views on the proposed restructuring, and the receipt by the Court of additional letters on the subject from union members, the present motions to intervene were filed by the two law firms named above on behalf of a number of individual union members and various local unions. According to the petitions, these individual union members and local unions seek leave to intervene in this matter so that they may object to the Restructuring Plan as contrary to the letter and spirit of the Consent Decree.

 Prior to the conclusion of briefing on these motions, the IRO submitted a Special Interim Report, dated May 30, 1997, setting forth his conclusion that the District Council Restructuring Plan was "entirely consistent with the terms and objectives of the Consent Decree." By letter dated June 12, 1997, the government joined in the IRO's conclusions. Having received this approval from both the IRO and the government, the District Council, still operating under supervision, informed the Court that it planned to implement the Restructuring Plan immediately. On June 16, 1997 the Court held a hearing on the motions to intervene. At the conclusion of that hearing, I entered a stay of implementation, so that the motions could be carefully considered on their merits before the District Council made any substantial changes.

 Having completed that consideration, the Court denies the motions to intervene and the motion for class certification, and vacates the stay.

 II.

 A

 The District Council and the IRO contend that this Court has no authority under the Consent Decree to subject the Restructuring Plan to judicial review. This threshold issue must be resolved. If this Court does not have the power to review the Restructuring Plan, then intervention by the petitioners in this action, for the purpose of objecting to a Plan that the Court cannot review, becomes a futile endeavor. The answer to this threshold issue lies in the nature and the wording of the Consent Decree, which brought to an end the civil RICO action commenced by the United States.

 Although consent decrees are a hybrid of contract and judicial pronouncement, they "should be construed basically as contracts." United States v. ITT Continental Baking Co., 420 U.S. 223, 236-37, 43 L. Ed. 2d 148, 95 S. Ct. 926 (1975). Accordingly, "the scope of a consent decree must be discerned within its four corners, and not by reference to what might satisfy the purposes of the one of the parties to it." United States v. Armour & Co., 402 U.S. 673, 682, 29 L. Ed. 2d 256, 91 S. Ct. 1752 (1971). "The court is not entitled to expand or contract the agreement of the parties as set forth in the consent decree, and the explicit language of the decree is given great weight." Berger v. Heckler, 771 F.2d 1556, 1568 (2d Cir. 1985) (citations omitted). Similarly, "[a] court may not replace the terms of a consent decree with its own, no matter how much of an improvement it would make in effectuating the decree's goals." United States v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 998 F.2d 1101, 1107 (2d Cir. 1993).

 The dispute between the proposed intervenors and the parties to this action centers on whether the Consent Decree requires prior court approval of the Restructuring Plan. The petitioners argue that P 4(g) of the Consent Decree requires court approval before the District Council may implement the Plan. The District Council, the government, and the ...


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