Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen

PETITIONER: Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company
RESPONDENT: Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division

DOCKET NO.: 794
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 387 US 556 (1967)
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1967
DECIDED: Jun 05, 1967

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1967 in Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen

Earl Warren:

Number 794, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company versus Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.

Mr. Lucente.

Martin M. Lucente:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

I appear on behalf of the petitioner, the Denver & Rio Grande Western.

The case is here on a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

The central question presented by this case is whether a labor union may be sued for losses resulting from an unlawful strike.

In judicial district in which the strike occurred in which the employees which it represents work and reside and which it acts for those employees whether the action may be brought only in another remote judicial district where the union maintained its headquarters.

This action was brought by the Rio Grande against the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen to recover damages resulting from a strike.

The Rio Grande operates a railroad system extending from Denver Colorado to Salt Lake and Ogden, Utah.

Its principal place of business is in Denver and 63% of its line of road is situated in Colorado.

The Brotherhood, a non-incorporated association holds representation rights and most of the railroads in the United States and it is the designated representative of trainmen employed by the Rio Grande.

The Brotherhood consist of a grand lodge which is located at Cleveland, Ohio and local lodges which are situated on the lines of each of the railroads in which it represents employees.

On each railroad a General Grievance Committee elected by the local lodges performs the Brotherhood's representation functions under the Railway Labor Act.

On the Rio Grande, respondent Carroll, with headquarters at Denver was chairman of the Grievance Committee at the time that the strike occurred and at the time of the proceedings in the lower court.

The dispute which culminated in the strike involved claims of contract violation which the Brotherhood had submitted to the National Railroad Adjustment Board on behalf of the Rio Grande employees which the Brotherhood represented.

The Board sustained the claims and it awarded a full days pay for each claimant for each occasion in which it found a violation of the contract despite the fact that the claimants had suffered no monetary losses.

The Rio Grande declined to make what it regarded as the arbitrary and unreasonable payments required by the awards.

And in such circumstances, under the Railway Labor Act, enforcement actions are provided for which in effect test the validity of the award.

The Brotherhood however, instead of filing an enforcement action undertook to compel the Rio Grande to make the payments required by the awards by calling a strike.

The strike lasted for approximately eight hours.

It was enjoined by the District Court and subsequently the District Court and the Court of Appeals both held that the strike was in violation of the Railway Labor Act and was unlawful.

This action was subsequently brought to recover damages accruing from diversions of freight to other railroads as a result of the unlawful strike.

The complaints alleged that the defendants were residents of the Judicial District of Colorado and that the venue requirements of Section 1391 of the Judicial Code had thus been satisfied.

Before trial, the Brotherhood filed a motion to dismiss on the ground among others that venue was improper.

This motion was denied by the District Court which subsequently rendered a judgment for the petitioner.

On appeal, the court below reversed, holding that venue did not lie against the Brotherhood in Colorado but was proper only at Cleveland, Ohio where the Brotherhood maintains its headquarters.

The Court of Appeals also held that respondent Carroll is not responsible for the strike and should have been dismissed.

As I shall develop in the argument, this decision by the Court of Appeals to the Tenth Circuit as directly in conflict with the holding of the Second Circuit in the so-called Rutland case and it is also in conflict with basic venue principles.

The venue issue, which is dominant and controlling here involves Section 1391 of Title XXVIII, which provides in part that non-diversity actions may be brought only in the judicial district in which all defendants reside.

The requirement of residence imposed by this 1948 enactment is not defined insofar as unincorporated associations are concerned.