Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Company

RESPONDENT: Sinclair Refining Company
LOCATION: United State District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 370 US 238 (1962)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1962
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1962

Facts of the case


Media for Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1962 in Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Company

Earl Warren:

Number 430, Samuel M. Atkinson, et al., Petitioners, versus Sinclair Refining Company.

Number 434, Sinclair Refining Company versus Samuel M. Atkinson, et al.

Mr. Cornfield.

Gilbert A. Cornfield:

Please the Court.

This case comes before this Court on the original pleadings fi -- filed by the employer in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

In that light, we must take the pleadings as well pleaded at this juncture in the litigation.

The original complaint filed by the employer was in three counts.

First was a suit by the employer against an international union and its local affiliate for breach of a no-strike clause of their bargaining agreement requesting damages.

The second count was against 12 local union committeemen for instigating and participating in the alleged breach of the no-strike clause.

I might say that the allegations of fact against the international and local union in Count I were the same as the allegations against of the 12 local union committeemen in Count II.

Count III of the complaint was against all the defendants, the international, the local affiliate and the 12 local union committeemen.

And it was a request for a blanket injunction operating into the future.

This point I wish to comment that the time the suit was brought there was no alleged breach of a no-strike clause then occurring.

I wish to state the request for the injunction contained in Count III as against the organizations and the individual defendants.

Each of them, their agents, servants, counselors and all to whom notice hereof may come be enjoined and restraint from aiding, abetting, fomenting, advising, participating in, ratifying or condoning any strike, stoppage of work, slowdown or any other disruption of or interference with normal employment or normal operation or production by any employee within the bargaining unit at the employer's East Chicago, Indiana refinery.

I might add that the broad scope of the requested injunction presumably would include new employees which may be hired at the plant in the indefinite future.

I presume that the employer would hand each new employee a copy of the injunction order along with his employment application.

The -- we filed a motion to dismiss these three counts.

The District Court, after reconsideration, dismissed Count II, that is the action against the individual defendants and their individual capacities and the requested injunction leaving Count I.

Earl Warren:

We'll recess now, Mr. --

Gilbert A. Cornfield:

Before the recess, I had indicated that the District Court had dismissed Count II of the complaint that is the action against the individual local officials and Count III of the complaint, request for the injunction.

Case at that point went before the Court of Appeals with the Seventh Circuit.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision as regards to Count III and the injunction request and overruled the District Court in its decision to dismiss Count II.

I might say that the Seventh Circuit's opinion as to the action against the individuals indicates that it is the Seventh Circuit's view that the individuals might be held responsible for breach of a no-strike clause if the unions were not.

Now, in looking over the employer's complaint, Sinclair's claim for relief sounds deceptively simple.

And I believe too many years eminently fair but we submit that if individuals, local union officials are to be brought into state courts or into federal courts under diversity of citizenship jurisdiction and if the injunction requested here to operate into the indefinite future is granted, a Pandora's Box of confusing litigation will ensue before federal and state courts.

We have argued rather extensively we believe in our briefs that the net result of the suit against the individuals and the request for an injunction is continuing conflict with the National Labor Relations Board and the jurisdiction of the federal courts to enforce and develop substantive law under their powers granted by Congress under Section 301 of the Taft-Hartley Act.

Furthermore, the requested injunction not only guarantees the recurrence of such conflicts into the unforeseeable future but flies in the face of the clear language and the spirit of long standing --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:


Gilbert A. Cornfield:

Yes, Mr. Justice Brennan.