Karahalios v. National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1263

PETITIONER: Karahalios
RESPONDENT: National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1263
LOCATION: Sable Communications of California

DOCKET NO.: 87-636
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 489 US 527 (1989)
ARGUED: Jan 17, 1989
DECIDED: Mar 06, 1989

H. Stephen Gordon - for respondent
H. Stephan Gordon - on behalf of the Respondent
Richard G. Taranto - as Amicus Curiae supporting the Respondent
Thomas R. Duffy - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Karahalios v. National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1263

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 17, 1989 in Karahalios v. National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1263

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 87-636 Efthimios A. Karahalios v. National Federation of Federal Employees.

You may proceed whenever you're ready.

Thomas R. Duffy:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

May it please the Court:

The issue before the Court this morning in this case is whether a federal employee who has been injured by his union's breach of the duty of fair representation may bring an action to redress those injuries in district court or, put another way, whether Congress intended a union operating in the federal sector to receive immunity, complete immunity, from such lawsuits, an immunity which has never been permitted in any other national labor relations statute.

It is our view that the congressional grant of exclusive representation powers to the union in the federal sector, coupled with the unreviewable discretion of the general counsel of the FLRA here, mandate jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, in the district court just as exactly those same factors compelled jurisdiction in this court's decision in Vaca v. Sipes 20 years ago.

Byron R. White:

Well, suppose the general counsel issues a complaint and then there's a... there is a provision for an administrative hearing on unfair representation.

Thomas R. Duffy:

That's correct.

Byron R. White:

So, Congress certainly anticipated that there would be an administrative remedy.

Thomas R. Duffy:

That's correct, Your Honor.


Byron R. White:

So, what would happen if there was an administrative proceeding on an unfair... and there's a ruling that there wasn't any unfair representation?

Can you go to court?

Thomas R. Duffy:

--I think that's exactly the wrong which was addressed by the Court in Vaca v. Sipes.

The problem is in the focus which the administrative remedy has and the strength of--

Byron R. White:

But could you go to court in my... in my question?

Could you go to court after that?

Thomas R. Duffy:

--In the private sector, Your Honor?

Byron R. White:

Would you... yes.

Would you just then go up on appeal, or would you start all over in the federal district court or what?

Thomas R. Duffy:

As it's currently structured, Your Honor, I believe that you can go to district court.

I believe that's the doctrine announced... enunciated by the Court in Vaca v. Sipes.

And I think that the reason for that is that the Court recognized in Vaca that the administrative remedies... the focus which the administrative agency has in fashioning remedies, even given an unfair labor practice finding, is a remedy which isn't necessarily suited to redress the wrongs done to the individual employee.

For example... and the facts here I think provide a cogent demonstration of that.

Here the administrative remedy fashioned by the agency, by the Authority's general counsel, in reaching a settlement, a settlement reached, it bears noting, over the objection of the charging party, over the objection of the injured employee... the administrative remedy reached here was to achieve a settlement with the union which required the union to post a notice on its bulletin board saying we're not going to repeat the conduct which was wrongful.

And that administrative remedy may well have been furthering the institutional goals of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, as similar notice-posting remedies further the institutional goals which the NLRB has in the private sector.

And the problem addressed by the Court in Vaca is that that administrative remedy, given the strength of the duty of fair representation doctrine... that administrative remedy does not provide any relief... that administrative focus does not provide any relief for the injured employee who is wronged by his union.

We believe that the--

Antonin Scalia:

Although in that case there had previously been... before the administrative remedy was adopted, there had previously been judicial relief available though.

Thomas R. Duffy:

--In the Vaca v. Sipes case.