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BOLLITIER v. INTERNATIONAL BHD. OF TEAMSTERS

May 8, 1989

Re: James J. Bollitier
v.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehouseman and Helpers, et al.


John F. Gerry.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GERRY

Dear Litigants:

 Can a pro se plaintiff recover attorney's fees and costs for a claim brought against a union pursuant to section 101(a)(5) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(5) (1982) challenging his expulsion from the membership of the union? Can an attorney who was forced to withdraw from the litigation prior to trial recover attorney's fees for an action brought pursuant to the same statute? These are the novel questions before us today. *fn1"

 I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

 We begin by reviewing the matter before us. *fn2" For over twenty years pro se plaintiff James J. Bollitier ("Bollitier") was a member of defendant Teamsters Local 676 ("Local 676"). During that period, Bollitier's relations with Local 676 were stormy, to say the least. On July 3, 1984, two Local 676 officials, President John P. Greeley ("Greeley") and Business Agent/Trustee Moses Jackson ("Jackson"), filed internal union charges against Bollitier. These charges alleged that Bollitier had for twenty years harassed Greeley, Jackson, and "some of the office girls"; constantly conducted himself in a very disruptive and abusive manner at the union hall; cost Local 676 thousands of dollars in arbitration and other fees because he was repeatedly terminated by employers because of his belligerent attitude; failed to comply with normal hiring hall procedures; and filed, out of malice, many groundless NLRB, EEOC, and civil rights charges against the Local and its officers.

 Greeley and Jackson brought their charges under Article XIX, § 6(b)(6) of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America Constitution. *fn3" That section provides that charges may be brought against officers or members for:

 
Disruption of Union meetings, or assaulting or provoking assault on fellow members or officers, or failure to follow the rules of order or rulings of the presiding officer at meetings of the Local Union or any similar conduct in or about union premises or places used to conduct union business.

 On July 24, 1984, the Executive Board of Local 676 held a hearing on the charges against Bollitier. Two of the seven members of the Executive Board hearing the case turned out to be the brother and stepson of Greeley, one of the two charging parties. Bollitier did not, however, object on the record to the obvious conflict of interest on the part of two of the members.

 By letter dated July 25, 1984, Local 676's Executive Board informed Bollitier that the Executive Board had voted to expel him from Local 676. Bollitier launched an internal appeal through Joint Council 53, an unincorporated association and intermediate appellate body of the International Union, at which time he first complained about the familial relationship between charging party Greeley and the two members of the Executive Board. That appeal was unsuccessful, as was a further appeal to the International Union.

 Bollitier then turned to this Court for relief on November 4, 1985. By his counsel, Alan B. Baybick, Esq., Bollitier alleged that the International Union, Joint Council 53, and Local 676 had committed six violations of the LMRDA:

 
1. Bollitier was denied assistance of counsel in the preparation of his defense in violation of the International Constitution.
 
2. Two members of the trial board were related to the charging party and therefore were "not uninvolved" members within the meaning of Article XIX, Section 1, of the Constitution of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
 
3. The trial board permitted Local 676's receptionist, a nonunion member, to testify in violation of the Constitution of Teamsters Local 676.
 
4. Jackson was a Commissioner of the Camden County Municipal Authority and therefore not entitled to file charges against plaintiff pursuant to Article IV, Section 1(c) ...

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