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Berardi v. Swanson Memorial Lodge No. 48 of Fraternal Order of Police

argued: November 6, 1990.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania; D.C. Civil No. 90-00019E.

Sloviter, Scirica and Alito, Circuit Judges.

Author: Alito

ALITO, Circuit Judge

Arthur Berardi, a retired Pennsylvania State Police Officer and former member of the Swanson Memorial Lodge No. 48 of the Fraternal Order of Police (the Lodge), filed a civil action against the Lodge under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. ยง 401 et seq. The district court dismissed his complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that the Lodge is not a "labor organization" within the meaning of the LMRDA. We will vacate this decision because the record at this juncture does not adequately support the trial court's holding.


Before the events that led to this litigation, Berardi was an honorary member of the Lodge. In late 1986, after proceedings that Berardi contends were procedurally defective, he was suspended from the Lodge for violating a provision of the constitution and bylaws of the Fraternal Order of Police prohibiting statements detrimental to that organization or any of its members. Berardi then sued under the LMRDA.

The Lodge moved under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Lodge contended that "an organization which represents only governmental employees" is not subject to the Act, and the Lodge submitted an affidavit stating that its active and honorary members are all either current or retired members of the Pennsylvania State Police. The affidavit also stated that the Lodge "does not undertake in any way to represent the interests of those of [sic] honorary members who are retired from the Pennsylvania State Police in regard to their relationship with the Pennsylvania State Police."

In response, Berardi submitted a brief arguing that "mixed" labor organizations -- those whose membership includes both public and private employees -- are subject to the Act. His brief noted that the Lodge's constitution permits both "honorary" members, who must be retired Pennsylvania State Police Officers, and "associate" members, who may be any "citizens of good moral character." His brief also asserted that some of the Lodge's active members had retired from the State Police and taken private employment. He did not submit any supporting affidavits.

In ruling on the motion to dismiss, the court agreed with Berardi that "mixed" labor organizations are subject to the LMRDA. The court also concluded that the Lodge is a "mixed" organization because its constitution permits certain individuals who are not current or retired state police officers to become associate members. The court nevertheless granted the motion to dismiss for a different reason. Relying on provisions of the Lodge's constitution stating that it is not a union, the court held that the Lodge was not subject to the Act because it did not represent any of its employees in labor negotiations as required by the LMRDA.

Berardi moved for relief from the judgment based on newly discovered evidence purportedly showing that the Fraternal Order of Police does represent its members in the role of a labor organization. He relied on a recent decision of the Commonwealth Court in a case in which the Fraternal Order of Police had brought suit challenging the constitutionality of state statutes regulating pension benefits for police. Pennsylvania State Lodge v. Commonwealth, 131 Pa. Commw. 611, 571 A.2d 531 (1990). The district court denied this motion, observing that the case upon which Berardi relied was "distinguishable" and "not controlling." Berardi then filed a timely notice of appeal from the order dismissing his complaint.


Berardi first contends that the district court erred by looking beyond the allegations of his complaint in denying the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Citing Mortensen v. First Federal Savings and Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891-92 & n.17 (3d Cir. 1977), and Gorman v. North Pittsburgh Oral Surgery Associates, 110 F.R.D. 446 (W.D. Pa. 1986), which in turn relied exclusively on Mortensen, Berardi contends that the factual basis for the jurisdictional allegations in a complaint cannot be disputed until after the answer is served. Although dictum in Mortensen seems to support Berardi's argument, we are convinced that the argument is wrong.

Long before Mortensen, the Supreme Court made clear that a facially sufficient complaint may be dismissed before an answer is served if it can be shown by affidavits that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking. In KVOS, Inc. v. Associated Press, 299 U.S. 269, 81 L. Ed. 183, 57 S. Ct. 197 (1936), the plaintiff filed a diversity suit and sought injunctive relief. The defendant moved to dismiss before answering the complaint, contending that subject matter jurisdiction was lacking because, contrary to the allegations in the complaint, the amount in controversy did not meet the jurisdictional requirement. The Supreme Court held (299 U.S. at 278) that the defendant's pre-answer motion reciting "facts dehors the complaint" was "an appropriate method of challenging the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint." The Court explained that this motion required the trial judge to "inquire as to its jurisdiction before considering the merits of the prayer for preliminary injunction." Id. at 278.

This court has followed this approach both before and after Mortensen. See, e.g., International Association of Machinists v. Northwest Airlines, 673 F.2d 700, 710-11 (3d Cir. 1982); Victory v. Manning, 128 F.2d 415, 416 (3d Cir. 1942); see also Enka B.V. of Arnhem, Holland v. E. I. Du Pont de Nemours, Inc., 519 F. Supp. 356, 360 (D.Del. 1981). Moreover, the requirement in Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) that a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be made "before pleading if a further pleading is required" would make little sense if the factual basis for subject matter jurisdiction could not be contested until after an ...

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