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Local 1804 v. Waterfront Commission

Decided: April 15, 1981.

LOCAL 1804, INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN'S ASSOCIATION, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 1804-1, INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN'S ASSOCIATION, AFL-CIO, AND JAMES CASHIN, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
WATERFRONT COMMISSION OF NEW YORK HARBOR, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 171 N.J. Super. 508 (1979).

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber, Handler and Pollock. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Pollock, J.

Pollock

The issue on this appeal is whether the term "convicted" as used in section 8 of the Waterfront Commission Act, N.J.S.A. 32:23-80 and 80.2, means upon conviction by a trial court or after exhaustion of appellate review.

Section 8, in relevant part, prohibits a person who has been convicted of certain crimes, including a high misdemeanor, from serving as an officer of a labor organization. It prohibits also a labor organization from collecting dues if an officer has been convicted of such a crime.

James Cashin was the Secretary-Treasurer of Locals 1804 and 1804-1 (the local unions) of the International Longshoreman's Association, AFL-CIO (ILA). A jury convicted Cashin of assault with intent to kill and of assault with an offensive weapon,

which were high misdemeanors under N.J.S.A. 2A:90-2 and 3. He appealed his convictions.

After Cashin's conviction, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor (Commission) advised the ILA, in effect, that unless Cashin resigned as secretary-treasurer, the local unions would violate section 8 if they collected dues. The Commission also sent a letter to the stevedore companies that employed members of the local unions, advising them that collecting dues while Cashin retained office would violate section 8.

Cashin and the local unions then filed this action against the Commission seeking a declaration that section 8 should take effect only when Cashin's conviction was affirmed on appeal. The trial judge granted a summary judgment for the Commission, holding that under section 8 Cashin was "convicted" on the entry of the guilty verdict. Thereafter, the local unions suspended Cashin from office.

After analyzing section 8 in light of New Jersey law, the Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the disqualification from holding office under the Waterfront Commission Act occurred "upon conviction in the trial court and not only after the expiration of all appeals." 171 N.J. Super. 508, 515 (1979). We granted the local unions' petition for certification. 82 N.J. 302 (1980). We now affirm substantially for the reasons set forth in the Appellate Division's opinion.

We note that state and federal courts in New York have relied upon the Appellate Division decision in concluding that "convicted" in section 8 means upon conviction in the trial court. Scotto v. Waterfront Comm'n of N.Y. Harbor, (Sup.Ct. Sept. 19, 1980), aff'd o.b. 434 N.Y.S.2d 1004 (App.Div.1980), appeal den. 50 N.Y. 2d 709, 415 N.E. 2d 984, 434 N.Y.S. 2d 1025 (1980); ILA v. Waterfront Comm'n of N.Y. Harbor, 495 F. Supp. 1101, 1115 (S.D.N.Y. 1980), aff'd in part and rev'd in part, 642 F.2d 666 (2 Cir. 1981). A further opinion is required, however, because the ILA, appearing as amicus curiae, and the local unions raise certain federal preemption issues not argued before the Appellate Division.

ILA and the local unions contend that state court interpretation of the meaning of "convicted" in section 8 is preempted by three federal statutes: Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) § 504(c), LMRDA § 401(e) and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) § 411(c). 29 U.S.C. §§ 504(c), 481(e), 1111(c) (1976). In the Appellate Division, the local unions asserted that the interpretation of section 8 "should be guided by" LMRDA § 504. 171 N.J. Super. at 514. LMRDA § 504 prohibits a person convicted of an offense like the one in this case from holding union office for five years after the conviction and provides further in subsection (c) that the date of the conviction shall be the later of the judgment in the trial court or its affirmance on appeal. The Appellate Division rejected the contention that ...


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