Guidry v. Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund

PETITIONER: Guidry
RESPONDENT: Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund
LOCATION: Westside High School

DOCKET NO.: 88-1105
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 493 US 365 (1990)
ARGUED: Nov 29, 1989
DECIDED: Jan 17, 1990

ADVOCATES:
Eldon E. Silverman - on behalf of the Petitioner
Joseph M. Goldhammer - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Guidry v. Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 29, 1989 in Guidry v. Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 17, 1990 in Guidry v. Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 88-1105, Guidry versus Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

The petitioner, Robert Guidry, is a former official of the respondent, Union, and a former trustee of the Union’s pension plan.

He pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from the Union and has been incarcerated.

His Union employment, however, made him eligible for benefits from three pension funds.

Guidry filed suit in Federal Court against the other two plans when they concluded that he had forfeited his rights to benefits because of his criminal activity.

His own Union intervened, and it and Guidry stipulated to the entry of judgment in the Union’s favor.

The District Court, however, rejected the contention that Guidry had forfeited his right to benefits.

It imposed a constructive trust in the Union’s favor on Guidry’s pension benefits.

In doing this, the court concluded that a narrow exception to the Employment Retirement Income Security Act was appropriate where the Union and the member’s pension plans were damaged.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed.

In an opinion filed today, we reverse that judgment.

We hold that the constructive trust violated the statute’s prohibition on assignment or alienation of pension benefits.

A constructive trust remedy is prohibited unless some exception to the general statutory ban is applicable.

It is also inappropriate, we feel, to approve any generalized equitable exception to ERISA’s anti-alienation provision.

That is a task for Congress, not the courts.

This decision is unanimous except that Justice Marshall does not join part 2C of the opinion.