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International Brotherhood of Boilermakers v. Kelly

filed as amended april 8 1987.: April 2, 1987.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil Action No. 85-2999

Author: Higginbotham

Before: HIGGINBOTHAM and BECKER, Circuit Judges, and DUMBAULD, District Judge.*fn*



This is an appeal from a final judgment of the district court dismissing as moot the suit by appellants International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and helpers ("International") and Trustee Henry P. Groton, Jr. against the officers of one of International's locals. The suit sought (1) to enforce a trusteeship imposed by the International over Local Lodge D-522, in part for reasons of possible financial mismanagement; and (2) to compel the officers to relinquish control over all assets and financial records of the local. Prior to any decision in the suit, the members of the local, in a representation election, voted to be represented by another union, and the National Labor Relations Board certified that new union as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the employees. Reasoning that the dissolution of the local over which appellants sought to impose a trusteeship left them without a viable claim, the district court dismissed their suit. We conclude that a decision as to the validity of the original trusteeship was necessary in order to determine who was entitled to control the assets at the time of decertification, -- and therefore who is now entitled to control those assets.*fn1 We will accordingly reverse the district court's dismissal order and remand the matter for proceedings consistent with this opinion.


On April 22, 1985, the International President, based on initial informal reports, exercised his power under Article XVIII, § 3 of the International Constitution and placed Local Lodge D-522 under emergency trusteeship.*fn2 At that time, appellant Groton was appointed as the International Trustee to administer the affairs of the local. Groton accordingly relieved all local officers of their duties as of the date of imposition of the trusteeship and directed them to turn over to him control of local records and funds. In a letter dated April 26, 1985, the International President informed the membership that the emergency trusteeship had been imposed because the local's officers had participated in an effort to disaffiliate from the International and, furthermore, that there were "serious questions raised regarding possible financial malpractice." App. at 217.

Pursuant to the requirements of Article XVIII, §§ 1 and 3 of the International Constitution, the International Executive Council notified Groton that a hearing would be held on May 5, 1985, to determine whether the trusteeship should be continued beyond the period of the emergency order. Groton duly posted notice of the hearing throughout the local's workplace and also mailed notice of the hearing to each of the appellee officers.

Appellee officers refused at all times to acknowledge the validity of the trusteeship or to comply with the directives issued by the appointed trustee. On May 5, 1985, the scheduled hearing on whether to continue the trusteeship was held. Appellees declined to participate, however, choosing instead to rely on a letter from their attorney that was presented to the hearing officer at the commencement of the proceedings. The letter challenged the validity of the trusteeship on the ground that the International failed to provide adequate notice of the specific reasons underlying the imposition of the trusteeship. The hearing thus proceeded with testimony offered solely in support of the International and its trustee. Thereafter, the International Executive Council decided to extend the trusteeship.

Appellants, faced with the continuing non-cooperation of appellee officers with trustee Groton, filed a complaint in the district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking to enjoin appellees from interfering with the administration of the trusteeship and to compel them to produce the local's financial books, records, and assets. See App. at 5-12. Appellants also moved for a preliminary injunction pending final resolution of their complaint. While that motion was pending, however, Local D-522's members voted to affiliate themselves with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Teamsters"). The National Labor Relations Board subsequently certified that selection and designated the newly formed Teamsters local as the exclusive bargaining representative. The twice-postponed hearing on appellants' outstanding motion for a preliminary injunction was not held until October 4, 1985. On March 24, 1986, before a ruling on appellants' motion for preliminary injunction had issued, appellees moved the court to dismiss the complaint as moot. Finding that the International "[did not] have a viable claim in th[e] action when the Local over which [it] sought to impose a trusteeship [was] no longer a viable entity," the district court granted the motion and dismissed the action. App. at 332. The present appeal ensued.


Questions of mootness are considered under a plenary standard of review. See e.g., United States v. Yakima Tribal Court of the Yakima Indian Nation, 794 F.2d 1402, 1405 (9th Cir. 1986) (review of district court jurisdiction is de novo); Sample v. Johnson, 771 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1019, 106 S. Ct. 1206, 89 L. Ed. 2d 319 (1986) (de novo standard for reviewing questions of mootness and subject matter jurisdiction). Mootness analysis traditionally begins with "the requirement of Article III of the Constitution under which the exercise of judicial power depends upon the existence of a case or controversy." North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246, 30 L. Ed. 2d 413, 92 S. Ct. 402 (1971) (quoting Liner v. Jafco, Inc., 375 U.S. 301, 306 n.3, 11 L. Ed. 2d 347, 84 S. Ct. 391 (1964)); see Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Township of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1108 (3d Cir. 1985). We have previously characterized this constitutional requirement as three distinct elements: "(1) a legal controversy that is real and not hypothetical, (2) a legal controversy that affects an individual in a concrete manner so as to provider the factual predicate for reasoned adjudication, and (3) a legal controversy with sufficiently adverse parties so as to sharpen the issues for judicial resolution." Dow Chemical Co. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 605 F.2d 673, 678 (3d Cir. 1979). Another common formulation for determining whether a real controversy exists under Article III is that "a case is moot when the issues presented are no longer 'live' or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome." Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496, 23 L. Ed. 2d 491, 89 S. Ct. 1944 (1969); see also Murphy v. Hunt, 455 U.S. 478, 481, 71 L. Ed. 2d 353, 102 S. Ct. 1181 (1982) (same); New Jersey Turnpike Auth. v. Jersey Cent. Power and Light, 772 F.2d 25, 31 (3d Cir. 1985) (same); In re Kulp Foundry, Inc., 691 F.2d 1125, 1128 (3d Cir. 1982) (same). To establish the existence of such a "live" issue, there must be "a real and substantial controversy admitting of specific relief through a decree of a conclusive character, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts." Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 241, 81 L. Ed. 617, 57 S. Ct. 461 (1937); see Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401, 45 L. Ed. 2d 272, 95 S. Ct. 2330 (1975); In re Kulp Foundry, Inc., 691 F.2d at 1129 n.7. Most frequently, a claim is found to present either a "live" issue and a legally cognizable interest, or neither. See, e.g., Murphy, 455 U.S. at 481; In re Kulp Foundry, Inc., 691 F.2d at 1129 & n.7.

In addition to its threshold constitutional dimension, mootness doctrine incorporates prudential considerations as well. See Kremens v. Bartley, 431 U.S. 119, 128, 52 L. Ed. 2d 184, 97 S. Ct. 1709 (1977); Franks v. Bowman Transp. Co., 424 U.S. 747, 756 n.8, 47 L. Ed. 2d 444, 96 S. Ct. 1251 (1976); Wilkinson v. Abrams, 627 F.2d 650, 658 (3d Cir. 1980). These policy concerns "relat[e] to the court's discretion in matters of remedy and judicial administration." Chamber of Commerce v. United States Department of Energy, 200 U.S. App. D.C. 236, 627 F.2d 289, 291 (D.C. Cir. 1980). Thus, in applying the mootness doctrine, courts, in addition to satisfying the requirements of Article III, "must answer the more policy-oriented question whether the parties before it have, at the time for decision sufficient functional adversity to sharpen the issues for judicial resolution." Dow Chemical Co., 605 F.2d at 677-78. In operation, however, the mandatory constitutional aspects and the discretionary policy concerns of mootness analysis are often difficult to parse. Indeed, mootness is fundamentally a matter of degree; there is no precise test for ascertaining with precision whether a particular claim has become moot. Cf. Babbitt v. United Farm Workers Nat'l Union, 442 U.S. 289, 297, 60 L. Ed. 2d 895, 99 S. Ct. 2301 (1979) ("The difference between an abstract question and a 'case or controversy' is one of degree, of course, and is not discernible by any precise test."); Haitian ...

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