LOCATION: Frontiero's Residence
DOCKET NO.: 72-630
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
CITATION: 412 US 1 (1973)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1973
DECIDED: May 21, 1973
Burton H. Hall - for respondent
Howard Schulman - for petitioners
Facts of the case
Media for Hall v. Cole
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 21, 1973 in Hall v. Cole
Warren E. Burger:
We'll hear arguments next in number 72-630, Hall against Cole.
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.
Although arising within the context of a internal labor matter, and it could arise in many variety of contexts, the fundamental issue present here is whether courts may fashion and utilize the extraordinary remedy of awarding counsel fees in statutory actions to successful litigants, notwithstanding that Congress which provided the right and remedy has not expressly authorized counsel fee awards.
The facts very briefly as found by the trial court, was that Mr. Cole, the respondent was a member of the petitioning Union and his Union for many years, scores of years, scores of years, in fact, competed with another Union for membership and job rights for American unlicensed seamen, these two unions represented generally all American unlicensed seamen.
The other Union in late 1950 and early 1960s, a repetition of conduct which had been going by both sides competing for jobs, attempted to take the employment opportunities in particular fleets, away from the petitioning members in their Union.
These activities was found, they are successful would seriously adversely effect, both the employment rights, pension rights, welfare, vacation rights.
Of the members of the petition Union, and the petitioner here then acted to repel these raids, and pursue certain activities.
In connection with the activities of his Union, Mr. Cole was supposed to, had proposed a resolution at a Union meeting, condemning his Union's defense against such raids, and the activities and the methods that used resorted to defend against it and there was two fundamental reasons for it as he expressed.
Firstly, it infringed upon his employment rights, which in the Maritime industry is called, shipping rights.
Secondly, it was contrary to what he had expressed.
It was his dread general trade Union concepts that Union people should not fight with each other.
He then to implement this philosophy, introduced a resolution at a Union membership meeting which was overwhelmingly rejected by his fellow members.
In fact, just two votes were cast for it, his own vote and someone who seconded it.
As a consequence of these activities, which the Union felt threatened its very existence, charge -- internal Union charge was filed against Mr. Cole.
He received notice, a hearing was held, he participated, and I must say contrary to the ACLU amicus brief, he participated, and that's the testimony.
The trail body, the internal trial body recommended his expulsion, it was sent to the general membership, and their membership meets in a peculiar matter of meetings, not one meeting, there are meetings held all over the country because of the nature of the calling, both in Huston and the west coast and various places, and the membership concurred in the decision of its trial body, as a consequence of that he appealed, his appeals were denied.
About a year later, in fact, I think the last appeal was in February, in December he commenced the action, Mr. Hall commenced the action for it.
A motion was made for temporary injunction, opposition, District Court sat on it and I think close to four months, three-and-a-half, four months, and then issued an injunction, reinstating Mr. Cole a membership.
Appeal was had as a consequence, and the decision was affirmed.
The complaint was amended and in 1965, this is almost three years already, an amended answer was interposed.
The general counsel for plaintiff failed to observe the local court rules, and the case was marked off the calendar in 1966.
Restored to the calendar sometime in the middle of 1968, and tried in January 1970.
On trial, which lasted several days, the District Court made some significant findings.
Number one, the court found that as contented by this Union, the respondent’s activities, the court said, maybe resulting in a decrease of the number of the jobs available to his fellow Union members.
It may very well reduce the Union treasury, and the membership, nevertheless, as the court said, Mr. Cole’s activity were protected under the Act, and that the proviso which is in Section 101 (a) (2), which says that each member of the Union shall have the responsibility toward the Union as an institution.
The court said in this particular case, that proviso was inapplicable as the same was not intended to discourage Mr. Cole’s activities merely because the ultimate result would not benefit his Union.
The court further found no evidence to support the trial committee’s findings that the respondent violated the Union constitutional provisions as charged.
An I may submit, this was prior to this courts decision at Hardeman and the district court found that respondents to say no damage at all, as a result of his exposure, that every one of his rights prior to the temporary injunction at almost 14-month period between expulsion and injunction, each and everyone his rights were assured, his employment.
His insurance and welfare befits remain unpaid and in fact, in 1967 Mr. Cole retired, and is presently receiving a pension, $250 per month from the joint Union Management Pension Fund.