Czosek v. O'Mara

LOCATION: Dodge County Juvenile Court

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 397 US 25 (1970)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1970
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Czosek v. O'Mara

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1970 in Czosek v. O'Mara

Warren E. Burger:

Number 234, Czosek against O'mara.

Mr. Lyman, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Richard R. Lyman:

Mr. Chief Justice, honorable justices, this is a case which comes before this Court to review a judgment of the Court of Appeals below which partially reversed and partially affirmed a District Court judgment granting motions to dismiss a complaint.

The plaintiffs in this case before employees of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad Company which is the railroad formed as the result of the merger of the former Erie Railroad and the former Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad.

That merger took place in 1960.

And in 1962, the plaintiffs and the allegations to their complaint which of course control the facts where situation here were furloughed from their employment as stationary engineers.

They alleged in the complaint several different theories of action.

They contend that that furlough being allegedly as a result of the merger of the railroads was the violation of the Interstate Commerce Act.

They allege that it was a violation of the implementing agreement without specification as to what a implementing agreement provided for or what provisions were relied upon.

They alleged that it was further violative of the Railway Labor Act and that they did not receive 30 days advance written notice of the fact that they were going to be furloughed.

They alleged that they received no compensation for their severance from employment or severance pay to which they say they were entitled to by the Interstate Commerce Act and the implementing agreement.

They assert that the furlough constituted a wrongful discharge because they were not subsequently recalled from the furlough or had not been up until the time of the suit which was filed in 1967, a predicate jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship and jurisdictional amounts on the Interstate Commerce Act Section 5 at sec and on the Railroad -- Railway Labor Act.

There was no specification of anything in the Interstate Commerce Act upon which they were relying to give rise to this action.

The only specific jurisdictional allegation as to the Railway Labor Act was this 30 day notice provision.

And finally, in addition to all of these various allegations, they alleged that their union failed and refused to process the grievance and collect compensation for them after they had been furloughed or wrongfully discharged as the case maybe.

And they say that this failure to process the grievance amounted to hostile discrimination, bad faith and so forth.

The District Court sustained the motions to dismiss that were filed by both defendants.

Finding that there was no diversity of citizenship, the defendant Erie Lackawanna as a New York Corporation and the only union defendants were sued -- that were sued were also residents of the New York State.

It found that there was no basis for such an action or for jurisdiction under the Interstate Commerce Act and that they were not relying on any provision of that Act or claiming any provision of the statute had been violated and that the only thing they were basically suing on was the implementing agreement.

As to the Railway Labor Act, they said that the adjustment board had exclusive jurisdiction in the contract claim.

With respect to the charge that the union had failed to properly represent them, the District Court ruled that although the plaintiffs used the first hostile discrimination and alleging that they fail to process their claims properly.

Use of that phrase alone would not support jurisdiction under the Railway Labor Act as an unfair representation claim.

And the District Court further pointed out that the plaintiffs were not attacking the validity of any collective bargaining agreement and they were not claiming that they could not personally pursue their administrative remedies to enforce a contract rights under that agreement.

After that ruling by the District Court, plaintiffs did not seek leave to file an amended complaint or attempt to file one but instead appeal from the decision of the District Court.

Thus, all we have in the record before the Court to support the factual questions involved are the complaint, they're too much to dismiss, plus so called affidavits that were filed with the District Court in connection with those motions to dismiss.

The unions defendants, petitioners here, file a regular motion to dismiss the complaint based on lack of jurisdiction of the subject matter and failure to state a claim and filed no supporting affidavit, so that it was an ordinary motion to dismiss.

The railroad's motion was supported by an affidavit of counsel which appears at page 12 of the appendix which did recite some facts.

On page 13, the second complete paragraph of the page states the railroads version of the facts out of which the dispute arose.

The plaintiffs filed -- the plaintiff's attorney files his own affidavit in our position to the motions to dismiss.

Appearing on page 15 of the appendix and which he does not state any facts simply recites what he contend, what he contended the nature of the action to be and then recited and I quote “that the plaintiffs do not have to allege facts or damages in their complaint under the federal rules.”