The opinion of the court was delivered by: Motley, District Judge.
OPINION GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Plaintiff filed this federal question suit against Union Local
306 (Union) and the Secretary of Labor under § 481 of the Labor
Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in 1997
requesting that: (1) the Secretary's findings with respect to
Plaintiff's previously filed claim against the Union's 1995
election be declared arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of
discretion, and contrary to law; (2) the court order the
Secretary to institute suit under § 402 of the LMRDA to set aside
the election; and (3) the Union be ordered to recompense
Plaintiff for his costs in defending a "SLAPP" suit.*fn1 On
February 23, 1999 this court dismissed Plaintiffs complaint
against the Union, holding that only the Secretary may be sued in
a Title IV action and that only the Secretary can file suit to
set aside an election. See Brodsky
v. Herman, 1999 Lexis 1852 at *2-4, 1999 WL 97900, *1-2
The Secretary then filed the instant motion for summary
judgment on July 9, 1999, arguing that there is no issue of
material fact to be decided. The Secretary maintains that the
Statement of Reasons for her decision not to require a new
election provides an adequate factual basis for the dismissal of
Plaintiff's claim that the Union election was invalid. In
response, Plaintiff claims that the Secretary's Statement,
setting forth her reasons for refusing to order a new election in
this case, constitutes a gross abuse of discretion. For the
reasons stated below, the summary judgment motion is granted and
this case is dismissed.
Plaintiff was an unsuccessful candidate for Secretary-Treasurer
of the Union in the Union's 1995 elections. Plaintiff thereafter
filed a complaint with the Secretary of the Department of Labor
(DOL) asking that the election results be set aside because of
alleged improprieties in connection with that election
(unsupervised collection of ballots; control of ballots left to
incumbent; improper nomination for candidacy of the Union's
president; harassment of Plaintiff at meetings and the
commencement by the Union of a "SLAPP" suit against Plaintiff).
The Secretary of Labor denied Plaintiff's complaint and request
for a new election. She submitted a Statement of Reasons
explaining her denial. The Secretary found that: (1) the Union's
constitution was not violated by the failure of the Union to
appoint opposition candidates to the Ballot Committee; (2) the
evidence presented by Plaintiff failed to establish the veracity
of his complaint that opposition candidates were denied the
opportunity to observe the election process; (3) Plaintiff failed
to establish the materiality of his complaints about the Union's
collection and control of the election ballots because no ballot
tampering was alleged; (4) the evidence indicated that the
"SLAPP" suit filed against Plaintiff was not retaliatory or
improper; and (5) the evidence revealed no violations of the
Local 306 Constitution in the nomination of the Union president.
II. Summary Judgment Standards
The standard for summary judgment is that "[u]ncertainty as to
the true state of any material fact defeats the motion." Gibson
v. Am. Broad. Companies, 892 F.2d 1128, 1132 (2d Cir. 1989). The
nonmoving party's burden is to produce concrete evidence
sufficient to establish a genuine unresolved issue of material
fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Dister v. Continental Group,
Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988). The court then must
view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant.
See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Gallo v.
Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219,
1224 (2d Cir. 1994). The court neither weighs evidence nor
resolves material factual issues, but only determines whether,
after adequate discovery, any such issues remain unresolved
because a reasonable fact finder could decide for either party.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Gibson, 892 F.2d at 1132.
"However, neither `conclusory statements, conjecture, [n]or
speculation' suffice to defeat summary judgment." Johnson v.
Delphi Energy & Engine Management Systems, 181 F.3d 82, 82 (2d
III. Standard of Review of Department of Labor Findings
A federal district court may review the decision of the
Secretary of the Department of Labor only to determine whether
the decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or
otherwise not in accordance with the law. See Dunlop v.
Bachowski, 421 U.S. 560, 573, 95
S.Ct. 1851, 44 L.Ed.2d 377 (1975), overruled in not relevant part
by Local No. 82, Furniture & Piano Moving, Furniture Store
Drivers, Helpers, Warehousemen & Packers v. Crowley,
467 U.S. 526, 549-50, 104 S.Ct. 2557, 81 L.Ed.2d 457 (1984). In making its
determination, the court must "consider the statement of reasons
justifying the decision to determine whether the path which the
agency followed can be discerned, and whether the decision was
reached for an impermissible reason or [for] no reason at all."'
See Vargas v. Immigration & Naturalization Service,
938 F.2d 358, 360 (2d Cir. 1991) (citing Dunlop, 421 U.S. at 573, 95
S.Ct. 1851). The statement should inform the court "of both the
grounds of decision and the essential facts upon which the
Secretary's inferences are based." See Dunlop, 421 U.S. at
573-74, 95 S.Ct. 1851.
Only in a rare case, such as where the "Secretary grossly
abuses his discretion by, for example, declaring he will not
enforce Title IV, or prosecuting complaints in a constitutionally
discriminatory manner," may the court go beyond the Statement of
Reasons. See Maldonado v. Brock, 661 F. Supp. 548, 551 (S.D.N Y
1987). Plaintiff contends that this is such a case because of the
nature of the Union's violations and the fact that the Secretary
took 169 days to issue her Statement. However, the rare case is
one in which the Secretary, not the Union, grossly abuses
discretion. Therefore, the conduct of the Union is not relevant
for this determination. Furthermore, the Secretary's conduct in
this case does not rise to the level of a constitutional
violation or a gross abuse of discretion as described above.*fn2
Therefore, this court is restricted to an examination of the
Statement of Reasons in order to determine whether the Secretary
provided a reasonable explanation for her decision.
Finally, the remedies available to Plaintiff in the district
court are limited. Should the court determine that the
Secretary's Statement of Reasons fails to provide an adequate
account of her decision, the court may not order a new election.
The Secretary retains the "exclusive authority to challenge and,
if successful, to supervise union elections." See Local No. 82
v. Crowley, 467 U.S. 526, 548, 104 S.Ct. 2557, 81 L.Ed.2d 457
(1984). If the court determines that the Secretary's decision was
arbitrary and capricious, the Secretary may be ordered to reopen
consideration of Plaintiff's former complaint and to supplement
her Statement.*fn3 See Dunlop, 421 U.S. at 574-75, 95 S.Ct.
This, and the fact that the Union has been dismissed from the
action, means that the only issue before the court is whether the