Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

SOMBROTTO v. INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS

February 3, 2003

VINCENT SOMBROTTO AND EDWIN GONZALEZ, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS; JAMES HOFFA, AS PRESIDENT OF INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS; JAMES ANDERSON, AS PRESIDENT OF LOCAL 966, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS; AND LOCAL 966, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Loretta A. Preska, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Vincent Sombrotto ("Sombrotto") and Edwin Gonzalez ("Gonzalez"), who are proceeding pro se, bring the above-captioned action against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (hereinafter, "IBT"), its president, James Hoffa ("Hoffa"), and Local 966 of the IBT ("Local 966") under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. ("LMRDA"), seeking to set aside the disciplinary action taken against them by the IBT. (Plaintiffs' Complaint, hereafter "Complaint" or "Compl.," ¶ 1). Before this Court now are defendants' summary judgment motions filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 as well as a plaintiffs' cross-motion for leave to amend their complaint to add the Independent Review Board ("IRB") as a "necessary party" and to "make it clear that [the complaint] is being brought pursuant to the United States v. IBT [88 Civ. 4486 (LAP)]." (Plaintiff's Affidavit in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss and in Support of the Motion for Leave to File an Amended Answer, cited herein as "Pl.'s Opp.," at ¶ 43). For the reasons stated below, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice to plaintiffs' right to pursue their challenge in the context of the Consent Decree under United States v. IBT, 88 Civ. 4486 (LAP).

BACKGROUND

The genesis of this case stretches back nearly a decade. In 1994, following an investigation by the IRB, the IRB found that Local 966 was not being run for the benefit of its members and recommended that the IBT impose a trusteeship on Local 966. (September 13, 2002 Letter from AUSA Andrew Schilling to the Court, hereafter "Govt. Ltr.," at 2). Among the IRB's findings was that Local 966's financial condition and its membership rolls had been declining significantly in the years immediately preceding the IRB's report. (Id.). The IRB also found that, despite the decline in membership, Sombrotto, the President of Local 966, Gonzalez, the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 966, and other officers and business agents of Local 966 had been organizing employees for non-IBT locals, including locals run by relatives of Sombrotto and Bryan McCarthy, the local's attorney. (Id.). The IRB also found that the officers, including Sombrotto and Gonzalez, embezzled union funds and engaged in other forms of financial misconduct at the local. (Id.). On April 27, 1994, acting pursuant to the IRB's recommendation, the IBT placed Local 966 in trusteeship. (Id.).

On June 3, 1994, the IRB recommended to Gene Moriarty, Trustee of Local 966, that disciplinary charges be brought against Sombrotto and Gonzalez, among other Local 966 officers, for actions taken by those officers prior to the imposition of the trusteeship. (Id.; Declaration of Stuart Lichten, hereafter "Lichten Decl.," Exh. B). Following a series of hearings on those charges, then-IBT General President Ronald Carey issued a decision dated May 16, 1995 permanently expelling Sombrotto and Gonzalez from the IBT. (Compl. ¶¶ 31, 33, 38, 39; Govt. Ltr. at 2). The IBT found that Sombrotto organized and directed others to organize for non-IBT unions, thereby breaching his oath of allegiance to the IBT, bringing reproach upon the union, engaging in dual unionism, and interfering with the IBT's legal obligations. (Govt. Ltr. at 2). The IBT also found that Sombrotto embezzled Local 966 funds, attempted to influence the operation of an employment benefit plan, improperly entered into a collective bargaining agreement and failed to hold genuine membership meetings. (Id.). With regard to Gonzalez, the IBT found that he engaged in dual unionism, breached his fiduciary 3 duties, and engaged in embezzlement, among other things. (Id.).

Sombrotto and Gonzalez appealed this decision to the IBT General Executive Board ("GEB"). However, pursuant to the Consent Decree entered into under United States v. IBT, 88 Civ. 4486 (LAP) (hereafter, the "Consent Decree"), which requires that the IRB "monitor all matters which it has referred for action," the IRB reviewed the IBT's May 16, 1995 decision. (Lichten Decl., Exh. A). By letter dated June 22, 1995, the IRB notified the IBT that the disciplinary action taken against Sombrotto and Gonzalez was not inadequate. (Lichten Decl., Exh. C; Govt. Ltr. at 3). Then, on October 10, 1995, the GEB advised Sombrotto and Gonzalez that it had decided their appeal and affirmed Carey's decision. (Govt. Ltr. at 3). The GEB did not advise Sombrotto and Gonzalez that they could have or should have appealed Carey's decision directly to the IRB or that they could appeal the GEB's decision to the IRB as well. (Id.).

On April 9, 1996, Sombrotto, Gonzalez and others commenced an action against the IBT, Local 966 and others in this Court. See Sombrotto et al. v. IBT et al., 96 Civ. 2524 (S.D.N.Y.). Brought under sections 101 and 102 of the LMRDA, Sombrotto and Gonzalez's 1996 lawsuit challenged the lawfulness of the disciplinary action taken against them by the IBT. (Govt. Ltr. at 3). Although the case was originally assigned to Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, on July 23, 1996, the case was transferred to Judge David N. Edelstein at the request of the Government because, under the All Writs Order entered in United States v. IBT, 88 Civ. 4486 (LAP), all lawsuits implicating the Consent Decree must be heard by the District Judge overseeing the implementation of the Decree.*fn1 See United States v. IBT ("All Writs Order"), 728 F. Supp. 1032 (S.D.N.Y. 1990). In July 1998, Judge Edelstein recused himself from the matter, and the case was reassigned to Judge Robert P. Patterson. On November 24, 1999, because Sombrotto had been indicted by a New York grand jury, the parties stipulated to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice to plaintiffs' reinstating the case depending on the outcome of Sombrotto's criminal case. (Govt. Ltr. at 3; Compl. Exh. A).

On October 22, 2001, after the state criminal charges against Sombrotto were dismissed, Sombrotto and Gonzalez commenced the instant action, also under the LMRDA, which was essentially identical to their earlier action. (Govt. Ltr. at 3). In accordance with the November 24, 1999 Stipulation of Dismissal of the earlier action, the case was assigned to Judge Patterson. (Id.). However, at the Government's request, I accepted transfer of this matter pursuant to the All Writs Order in United States v. IBT, 88 Civ. 4486 (LAP).

On May 23, 2002 and May 28, 2002, the Local 966 defendants and the IBT defendants moved, respectively, for summary judgment, arguing that Sombrotto and Gonzalez were precluded from commencing an action under the LMRDA to set aside their discipline because any such challenge must be brought under the Consent Decree. (Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant International Brotherhood of Teamsters' Motion for Summary Judgment; Local 966 Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment). In response, Sombrotto and Gonzalez submitted an affidavit by Sombrotto in opposition to the motion, in which Sombrotto and Gonzalez also cross-moved for leave to file an amended complaint. (Plaintiffs' Affidavit in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss and in Support of the Motion for Leave to File an Amended Answer, "Pl.'s Aff.," dated July 19, 2002). In addition to plaintiffs' contention that their action was indeed brought "pursuant to the Consent Decree" because both their original action in 1996 and their renewed action in 2002 were assigned to the District Judge overseeing the Consent Decree, Sombrotto and Gonzalez also requested "leave to file an amended complaint pursuant to which a necessary party, the IRB, would be added and the caption changed to make clear that it is being brought pursuant to the United States v. IBT." (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 43).

Because these motions implicate the Consent Decree, the Government wrote to the Court on August 6, 2002 and requested the opportunity to be heard. On August 16, 2002, that request was granted, and on September 13, 2002, the Government submitted a letter expressing its belief that it is not necessary for this Court to resolve the IBT's motion to preclude Sombrotto and Gonzalez from pursuing their LMRDA complaint as a separate action. (Govt. Ltr. at 4). Rather, according to the Government, the only questions remaining for this Court are whether the Consent Decree process remains available to plaintiffs and, if so, how they may properly pursue their remedies in accordance with the Consent Decree. (Id.). The Government, in its letter, concluded that the Consent Decree process remains fully available to plaintiffs to challenge their expulsions and, accordingly, recommended that this Court dismiss plaintiffs' LMRDA complaint without prejudice to plaintiffs' right to pursue their challenge in the context of the Consent Decree. (Govt. Ltr. at 4, 8). The Government also recommended that, because the IRB is an internal IBT entity that has never been considered a necessary party to the Consent Decree, this Court deny the motion to add the IRB as a party defendant. (Govt. Ltr. at 8). Lastly, the Government expressed its believe that this Court would be within its discretion to establish a schedule providing for a prompt resolution of Sombrotto and Gonzalez's matter. (Id.).

DISCUSSION

I. The Consent Decree Framework

Following certification of the results of the IBT's 1991 election, the Consent Decree provided for the establishment of the IRB to continue the disciplinary reform begun by the court-appointed Investigations Officer and Independent Administrator. "The IRB is a permanent institution vested with power to investigate and eradicate corruption, and to monitor the IBT's attempts to eradicate corruption." United States v. IBT ("IRB Rules"), 803 F. Supp. 761, 780 (S.D.N.Y. 1992), aff'd as modified, 998 F.2d 1101 (2d Cir. 1993). The IRB rules govern the operation of the IRB and were approved by this Court and the Court of Appeals. See id.

Unlike the former court-appointed officers, the IRB must refer all disciplinary matters to the IBT before conducting a hearing. Matters are referred in the form of an IRB Investigative Report that sets out the charges, findings and recommendations. Upon receipt of the proposed charges, the IBT must "promptly" take "whatever action is appropriate under the circumstances." Consent Decree ΒΆ 12(e). Within ninety days of the referral, the IBT entity to which the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.