ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.
Adams and Weis, Circuit Judges and Bloch, District Judge.*fn*
This appeal raises a narrow question of statutory construction: whether an intervening union election divests a federal district court of jurisdiction previously -- and properly -- assumed under Title I of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). We conclude that it does not, and accordingly affirm the order of the district court granting a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs Walter Kraska and Joseph Gorka were the President and Secretary-Treasurer, respectively, of District 25, a territorial unit of the United Mine Workers (UMW). Early in 1980, the union's International Executive Board (IEB) removed the two men from their posts for refusing to pay disciplinary fines assessed against them. Six months later, Kraska and Gorka filed an action in the district court against the UMW, the IEB, and a number of union officers, alleging that their removal had violated their rights, guaranteed by Title I of the LMRDA, "to . . . fulfill their duly elected terms of office and their responsibilities in their respective positions." Appendix at 19a.
At a pre-trial conference held in November, 1980, counsel for Kraska and Gorka informed the court that District 25 was scheduled to hold a quadrennial election in 1981. In response to the attorneys' concern that the defendants would attempt to block plaintiffs' participation in the upcoming campaign, the district judge ordered counsel for the defendants to "determine if the Union and [defendants] believe [plaintiffs] are not eligible to aspire for their former offices." Appendix at 52a. Several months later the plaintiffs formed a slate and entered the race; Kraska running for district representative to the IEB, Gorka seeking his former post as Secretary-Treasurer, and various supporters filing for other offices. Within weeks, Kraska and Gorka received indications that the Election Committee of District 25 might disqualify them. In response, they filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in which they asked to be reinstated in office.
In a status memorandum filed at the behest of the district court in May, 1981, the defendants asserted that Kraska and Gorka were "members in good standing" of the UMW and further argued that a preliminary injunction was inadvisable because such relief would interfere with the upcoming election:
Plaintiffs and defendants directly involved in District 25 have placed the issues before the voting membership of District 25. In the last analysis the question of who should lead District 25 in the four years ahead should be decided by that membership. Again the object of the Federal laws is to secure for that membership a fair and unfettered right to elect its leadership. The crux of the case at bar is the propriety of past actions. Plaintiffs' Pre-trial memorandum does not complain that Plaintiffs' right or ability to campaign for the new offices they seek have been or are being interfered with.
In the exercise of its discretion and in the public interest and interest of the Federal labor laws, this Court should not interfere in the unfettered political ebb and flow which will on June 9, 1981 determine the leadership of District 25 henceforth. Thereafter, if the parties, freed of the political restraints of an ongoing election campaign cannot resolve the issues posed by this case, the Court can adjudicate them in accordance with normal procedures.
Appendix at 53a (emphasis added).
The above representations convinced the district judge that the UMW did not contest plaintiffs' eligibility for office. He concluded, therefore, that many of the issues raised by the plaintiffs' lawsuit would be moot after the election, especially if Kraska and Gorka won. For this reason, the district court postponed the hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction until a date subsequent to the balloting.
The election took place on June 9, 1981. Kraska, Gorka, and all but one of their supporters won their respective races. Two weeks later, however, the District 25 Election Committee overturned the results, in part because Kraska and Gorka were alleged to have once "misappropriated" union funds. Appendix at 81a. After an appeal to the IEB, all the victors -- except Kraska and Gorka -- were restored to office, and a new election was ordered for the two vacant posts.
Kraska and Gorka then renewed their motion for a preliminary injunction, requesting that the district judge (1) set aside their disqualification; (2) order that they be allowed to take office; and (3) enjoin the upcoming election (which would fill the offices for which plaintiffs had been disqualified). The district court determined that it had jurisdiction under Title I of the LMRDA and granted the plaintiffs' motion. Defendants have ...