United States District Court, Southern District of New York
June 2, 1999
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFFS,
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edelstein, District Judge.
OPINION & ORDER
This opinion emanates from the voluntary settlement of an
action commenced by the United States of America against, inter
alia, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT" or "the
union") and the IBT's General Executive Board ("GEB"). The
settlement is embodied in the voluntary consent order entered
March 14, 1989 ("Consent Decree"). The goals of the Consent
Decree are to rid the IBT of the hideous influence of organized
crime and establish a culture of democracy within the union. The
long history of this case has been set forth in this Court's
numerous prior opinions. Accordingly, only those facts necessary
for resolving the instant matter shall be set forth.
Currently before this Court is Robert T. Simpson, Jr.'s
("Simpson") motion brought pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5) and 60(b)(6)
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to vacate this Court's
judgment and for reconsideration of his motion for recusal of
Frederick B. Lacey ("Lacey"), a member of the Independent Review
Board ("IRB") for the IBT.
On June 30, 1994, the IRB issued a report recommending that the
IBT charge Simpson with violating the IBT Constitution by (1)
bringing reproach upon the IBT and (2) interfering with Local
743's legal obligations by allowing Donald Peters to act as an
agent and representative of Local 743 after the entry of a
consent decree barring Peters from these positions. See United
States v. IBT [Simpson], 931 F. Supp. 1074, 1080 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).
On July 5, 1994, the IBT charged Simpson as the IRB recommended
and returned the matter to the IRB for adjudication. Id.
The IRB conducted a hearing on the charges against Simpson on
December 20 and 21, 1994. On July 25, 1995, the three member
panel of the IRB issued a unanimous decision finding that the
charges against Simpson were proven. Accordingly, the IRB
permanently barred Simpson from holding any IBT-affiliated office
or employment. The IRB's decision was then forwarded to this
Court for review. See id. at 1079.
After the IRB issued its decision, in a motion to this Court,
Simpson raised the issue of recusal of Lacey for the first time.
In that motion, for which Simpson now seeks reconsideration, he
alleged that a letter Lacey wrote to Thomas Puccio ("Puccio"),
the Trustee of Local 295 ("April 1994 letter"), was evidence that
Lacey was biased against Simpson. On June 27, 1996, this Court
rejected Simpson's claim of bias and affirmed the IRB's decision.
See id. at 1074. In refusing Simpson's demand for Lacey's
recusal, this Court employed the "involved officer or member"
standard set forth in Article XIX, § 1(a) of the IBT
Constitution. Id. at 1103.
Simpson appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit, who in turn, affirmed this Court's decision. See United
States v. IBT, 120 F.3d 341 (2d Cir. 1997). In rejecting
Simpson's claim of bias, the Second Circuit held that
Simpson's claim [of bias] is based solely on [his]
speculation and conclusory allegations. Simpson has
sought to conjure a claim that Lacey [is] biased
against him from a series of inferences based on a
single sentence in the [April 1994 letter] that
Simpson claims demonstrates that Lacey is biased in
favor of Carey. From this one sentence, Simpson
infers that Lacey is partial to Carey, that this
alleged partiality makes Lacey biased against Simpson
because of an alleged "falling out" between Carey and
Simpson, and that this alleged bias against him
caused the IRB to take action against Simpson that
the IRB otherwise would not have taken.
Id. at 347-48 (citations and footnote omitted).
In a similar case, former IBT Vice President Gene Giacumbo
("Giacumbo") claimed that the same April 1994 letter proved that
Lacey was biased against him. This Court similarly rejected
Giacumbo's claim, again using the "involved officer or member"
standard. See United States v. IBT [Giacumbo], 951 F. Supp. at
1129-30. On Appeal, the Second Circuit remanded the Giacumbo
matter to this Court, finding that the appropriate standard for
determining whether an IRB member should recuse himself is the
"evident partiality" standard of the Federal Arbitration Act
("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(2). See United States v. IBT
[Giacumbo], 170 F.3d 136.
On March 26, 1999, this Court issued a decision finding that
even under the evident partiality standard there was no basis for
Giacumbo's claim that Lacey should have recused himself. See
United States v. IBT [Giacumbo], 1999 WL 169635, at *3, 1999
U.S.Dist. LEXIS 3957 (S.D.N.Y. March 26, 1999) at *9-10. This
Court reasoned that:
The full test of the April 1994 letter and the
circumstances surrounding that letter demonstrated no
partiality on the part of Lacey toward Carey.
Instead, the letter expressed Lacey's objection to
the litigation tactics of Puccio. As Lacey explained
during his July 30, 1998 testimony before the
Subcommittee on Education and the Workforce of the
United States House of Representatives
("Subcommittee"), he wrote the letter after he had
been informed that Puccio had threatened to make
allegations damaging to Carey if the IBT did not
agree to expand Puccio's jurisdiction to include IBT
Local 851. . . .
At the time of the April 1994 letter, the IRB was
already engaged in an investigation into allegations
against Carey. . . . Indeed, prior to the April 1994
letter, and at the IRB's direction, the IRB Chief
Investigator, Charles M. Carberry, requested Puccio
to provide any information Puccio had with respect to
Carey. . . . The April 1994 letter simply expressed
Lacey's disapproval of the release of allegations
publicly for the purpose of blackmail. . . .
Id. Subsequent to this Court's March 26, 1999 decision,
Simpson, relying solely upon the April 1994 letter and the Second
Circuit's decision in Giacumbo regarding the appropriate
standard for determining the merits of a request for the recusal
of an IRB member, made the instant motion pursuant to Rule
60(b)(5) and 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Memorandum of Law in Supp. of Robert T. Simpson, Jr.'s Mots. to
Vacate J. and for Recons. of his Mot. for Recusal ("Simpson
Mem.") at 4-7.
"Rule 60(b) motions are addressed to the broad discretion of
the district court. . . ." United States v. IBT, 179 F.R.D.
444, 447, 1998 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 8193, *5-6 (S.D.N.Y. June 3, 1998)
(citations omitted). Rule 60(b)(5) provides that a court may
relieve a party from final judgment where "it is no longer
equitable that the judgment should have prospective application."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(5). Rule 60(b)(6) states that a court may
relieve a party from a final judgment for "any other reason
justifying relief from the operation of the judgment."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6). The Second Circuit has held that "[s]ince
60(b) allows extraordinary judicial relief, it is invoked only
upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Nemaizer v.
Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61 (2d Cir. 1986) (citations omitted).
Simpson makes no showing of exceptional circumstances
warranting relief under Rule 60(b). Simpson, who failed to raise
the recusal issue before the IRB and only raised the issue after
the IRB issued its decision, waived any claim for recusal. His
claim was based upon a May 15, 1995 Time magazine article which
quoted from the April 1994 letter, yet he did not raise the
recusal question until August 1995, after the IRB issued its
decision. By failing to make the recusal request to the IRB
promptly after the evidence that purportedly supported his
request was publicly available, Simpson waived any recusal claim.
See Apple v. Jewish Hospital and Medical Center, 829 F.2d 326,
333 (2d Cir. 1987) ("It is well-settled that a party must raise
its claim of a district court's disqualification at the earliest
possible moment after obtaining knowledge of facts demonstrating
the basis for such claim."). Furthermore, Simpson's submission to
this Court merely reiterates arguments he previously offered this
Court and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which both
Courts found to be "based solely on Simpson's speculation and
conclusory allegations." See United States v. IBT [Simpson],
120 F.3d at 347; United States v. IBT [Simpson], 931 F. Supp. at
Relying upon the Second Circuit's decision in Giacumbo that
established the evident partiality standard, Simpson argues that
this Court must now revisit his case and apply that same standard
Simpson Mem. at 1-3. A subsequent panel decision, however, may
not overrule a prior decision of another panel of the Second
Circuit. See United States v. Moore, 949 F.2d 68, 71 (2d Cir.
1991) (stating that "prior opinions of a panel of this court are
binding upon us in the absence of a change in the law by a higher
authority or our own en banc proceeding . . ."); Finkel v.
Stratton Corp., 962 F.2d 169, 174 (2d Cir. 1992) (holding that
"one panel of this court may not overrule the decision of a prior
panel."). The panel in Giacumbo remanded the case to this Court
with instructions "to consider Simpson as now modified by our
formulation of the appropriate recusal standard." United States
v. IBT [Giacumbo], 170 F.3d 136, 147. Thus, while the Giacumbo
panel indicated that the new standard that this Court should
employ in the Giacumbo case and in the future is the evident
partiality standard, it did not overrule and may not overrule the
prior panel's decision in Simpson. Therefore, the result in the
Simpson case remained unchanged.
In addition, while a "change in decisional law is cognizable
under Rule 60(b)(5)," Travelers Indem. Co. v. Sarkisian,
794 F.2d 754, 757 n. 4 (2d Cir. 1986), absent special circumstances
making prospective application of the judgment unjust, a change
in the law will not warrant relief under Rule 60(b)(5). Simpson
makes no attempt to establish special circumstances, nor does
justice require that this Court vacate the judgment. Accordingly,
Simpson is not entitled to any relief based upon the Second
Circuit's decision in Giacumbo.
Furthermore, even if there were a basis to reconsider Simpson's
recusal motion, Simpson's asserted grounds for Lacey's recusal
are without merit. Simpson's argument is based principally on one
sentence in the April 1994 letter written in a context wholly
unrelated to the charges against Simpson. Simpson claims that the
April 1994 letter, which makes no reference to Simpson, "clearly
show[s] that, at the time, Lacey had placed himself in the role
of a political supporter of Carey and viewed any opposition to
Carey's then reelection efforts as a threat to the IRB's work."
Simpson Mem. at 5 (emphasis in original). Simpson contends that
the April 1994 letter and the Time magazine article quoting it
"demonstrated Lacey's evident partiality as a member of the IRB,
particularly given Simpson's then-status as a prominent critic
and political opponent of Carey." Id. at 5-6.
Simpson's reasons for recusal are virtually identical to the
grounds this Court specifically rejected in its decision denying
Giacumbo's recusal request under the evident partiality standard.
See United States v. IBT ("Giacumbo Remand"), 1999 WL 169635
(S.D.N.Y. March 26, 1999), *3. This Court found that "the full
text of the April 1994 letter and the circumstances surrounding
that letter demonstrated no partiality on the part of Lacey
toward Carey. Id. Moreover, this Court found that "even if the
April 1994 letter could be construed as demonstrating partiality
toward Carey, Giacumbo's conjecture that the letter indicates
Lacey's bias against him is mere speculation and is insufficient
to establish bias under the `evident partiality' test." Id. at
As this Court found with respect to Giacumbo's claims,
Simpson's argument for recusal also fails to satisfy the evident
partiality standard. The rule in the Second Circuit is that
evident partiality exists "where a reasonable person would have
to conclude that an arbitrator was partial to one party to the
arbitration." Morelite Constr. Corp. v. New York City Dist.
Council Carpenters Benefit Funds, 748 F.2d 79, 84 (2d Cir.
1984). The test a court must apply "is an objective one which
assumes that a reasonable person knows and understands all the
relevant facts." In re Drexel Burnham Lambert, Inc.
861 F.2d 1307, 1313 (2d Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1102, 109
S.Ct. 2458, 104 L.Ed.2d
1012 (1989). The full text of the April 1994 letter and the
attendant circumstances, which Lacey described under oath in July
1998 before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of
the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the United States
House of Representatives, reveal that Lacey had not placed
himself in the role of a political supporter of Carey and was not
biased against Simpson as one who was a political opponent of
For the foregoing reasons, Simpson's motion to vacate and for
reconsideration of his recusal motion is DENIED.
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