United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on Defendant R. Alexander
Acosta, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 27). In April 2017,
Plaintiff was a candidate for President of the New Jersey
Education Association ("NJEA"), a state-wide union
representing teachers. Plaintiff alleges that during the
campaign, his opponents violated several NJEA election rules.
(Cert, of Friedman, Ex. A, ECF No. 27-3).
exhausting his internal remedies with the NJEA, on June 28,
2017, Plaintiff filed a written complaint to the Office of
Labor-Management Standards, U.S. Department of Labor
("DOL") asking the Secretary to investigate the
alleged campaign violations. (Id.) Upon receipt of
Plaintiff s complaint, the DOL initiated an investigation,
assigning a complaint number and an investigator. (Cert, of
Friedman, ECF No. 27-2, at ¶ 3). During the
investigation, the DOL learned that the NJEA had not filed
any "LM reports" with the DOL. (Id. at
¶ 4). These reports "disclose the labor
organization's financial condition and operations for its
preceding fiscal year." (Id.) The DOL reviewed
the constitution and bylaws of the NJEA as well.
(Id. at ¶ 5). Finally, a DOL representative
contacted an NJEA administrator to determine whether the NJEA
represented union members who were employed by private or
parochial schools. (Id. at ¶ 6). The
investigator was informed that the NJEA "does not
represent any private or parochial school employees."
(Cert, of Friedman, Ex. B, ECF No. 27-3).
on that information, DOL concluded that the NJEA is not
covered by Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and
Disclosure Act,  and on July 20, 2017, sent a letter to
Plaintiff explaining that it lacked jurisdiction over NJEA.
(Cert, of Friedman, Ex. C, ECF No. 27-3). The DOL explained
the NJEA is composed exclusively of employees of various
public-school districts in the State of New Jersey. The
public-school districts are political subdivisions and do not
meet the definition of employer within the meaning of Section
3(e) of the LMRDA. Since the [N]EA] represents only persons
employed by the public-school districts, which are not
employers under the LMRDA, the union is not subject to
coverage under the LMRDA.
brought this suit (1) to compel DOL to investigate the
campaign violations; (2) to declare that a union representing
public employees be subject to the requirements of the Act;
and (3) so that the DOL be mandated to reopen his case.
(Compl., ECF No. 1). In this summary judgment action,
Defendant argues that DOL's determination that the NJEA
is not covered by Title IV of the Act is in accordance with
statutory intent, and if is not clear, then the
Department's interpretation should be accorded deference.
In response, Plaintiff points to a DOL proposed regulation
that, if adopted, would change whether the Act applies to the
NJEA; Plaintiff next argues the Chevron deference is
"dead," so that DOL's interpretation regarding
whether or not the NJEA is covered by the Act is not entitled
to any deference.
judgment is appropriate under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) when the
moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the evidence establishes the moving
party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.317, 322-23
(1986). "When reviewing agency action under the APA, the
District Court 'sits as an appellate tribunal and the
entire case on review is a question of law.'"
Aybar v. Johnson, 295 F.Supp.3d 442, 451 (D.N.J.
2018) (quoting Soccer Centers, LLC v. Zuchowski, No.
17-1024, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 169328, at *5 (D.N.J. Oct. 13,
2017)). Because "the administrative agency [was] the
finder of fact, . . . [this Court] does not need to determine
whether there are disputed facts to resolve at trial."
Id. (quotation omitted). Thus, "[t]he
Court's review is limited to the administrative record on
which the agency based its decision." Id.
(citing 5 U.S.C. § 706; Camp v. Pitts, 411 U.S.
138, 142 (1973)). "Summary judgment thus serves as the
mechanism for deciding, as a matter of law, whether the
agency action is supported by the administrative record and
otherwise consistent with the APA standard of review."
Id. (quoting Soccer Centers, LLC, 2017 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 169328, at *5).
court reviews an agency's decision under § 706 of
the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Christ the King
Manor, Inc. v. Sec'y United States HHS, 730 F.3d
291, 305 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing CBS Corp. v. FCC,
663 F.3d 122, 137 (3d Cir. 2011)). Under § 706, courts
"'hold unlawful and set aside agency action,
findings, and conclusions'" that are
'"arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or
otherwise not in accordance with law.'" Christ
the King Manor, Inc., 730 F.3d at 305 (quoting 5 U.S.C.
§ 706(2)(A)). "Under that restricted standard of
review, [courts] must consider whether the agency
'examine[d] the relevant data and articulate[d] a
satisfactory explanation for its action,' while being
careful 'not to substitute [its own] judgment for that of
the agency."' Id. (quoting Motor
Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983)).
may consider an agency action to be arbitrary and capricious,
"if the agency has relied on factors which Congress has
not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an
important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for
its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the
agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to
a difference in view or the product of agency
expertise." State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463
U.S. at 43. The review of the agency's decision
"must also be based on 'the administrative record
[that was] already in existence' before the agency, not
'some new record made initially in the reviewing
court' or 'post-hoc rationalizations' made after
the disputed action." Christ the King Manor,
Inc., 730 F.3d at 305 (quoting Rite Aid of Pa., Inc.
v. Houstoun, 171 F.3d842, 851 (3dCir. 1999)).
the Act does not set forth a specific provision on this
issue, the Supreme Court has held that "courts are
necessarily [not] without power or jurisdiction ... if it
should clearly appear that the Secretary has acted in an
arbitrary and capricious manner by ignoring the mandatory
duty he owes plaintiffs under the powers granted by the
Congress." Dunlop v. Bachowski, 421 U.S. 560,
566, 568 (1975). Thus, "a congressional purpose narrowly
to limit the scope of judicial review of the Secretary's
decision can, and should, be inferred in order to carry out
congressional objectives in enacting the Act."
Id. at 568. Accordingly, "the reviewing court
is not authorized to substitute its judgment for the decision
of the Secretary not to bring suit." Id. at
482 of the Act allows a member of a labor organization to
file an administrative complaint with the Secretary of Labor
for certain union election violations. 29 U.S.C. §
482(a). Upon receipt of such a complaint, the Secretary shall
investigate and if he or she "finds probable cause to
believe that a violation ... has occurred and has not been
remedied ... he [or she] shall. . . bring a civil action