LOCATION: Robinson's car during a traffic stop
DOCKET NO.: 72-1554
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
CITATION: 416 US 115 (1974)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 1974
DECIDED: Apr 16, 1974
Lawrence M. Cohen -
Robert O’brien -
Stephen Skillman -
Facts of the case
Media for Super Tire Engineering Company v. McCorkleAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1974 in Super Tire Engineering Company v. McCorkle
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 16, 1974 in Super Tire Engineering Company v. McCorkle
Warren E. Burger:
The disposition of number 72-1554, Super Tire Engineering against Mccorkle announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.
Harry A. Blackmun:
This case comes here from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
In New Jersey, workers who are on strike are made eligible for public assistance through State Welfare programs.
The petitioners here, Super Tire Engineering and another corporation are employers whose plants were struck.
They brought this suit against New Jersey officials for injunctive and declaratory relief with respect to this public assistance eligibility.
The employers claim that the State’s granted benefits to strikers was invalid because it interfered both with Federal Labor Policy as expressed in the Labor Management Relations Act and also with the Federal Policy behind the Social Security Act.
Before the case came to trial, the labor dispute, as is often the case, was settled and the strike came to an end.
The Union, which had intervened in the litigation then made a suggestion of mootness.
The Trial Court rejected that suggestion and went on to dismiss the compliant on the merits, observing that employers should go to Congress for relief.
On appeal, the Third Circuit, by a divided vote refrained from reaching the merits and instead, concluded that the case was moot, and remanded it with instructions to dismiss the complaint on the ground of mootness.
In an opinion filed today, we hold that even though the case for an injunction evaporated with the settlement of the strike, the issue as to the appropriateness of declaratory relief remained open and the requirement of Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution that there be a case or controversy between the parties, was fully satisfied.
We distinguish two earlier cases decided here; the Oil Workers Unions against Missouri and Harris against Battle.
We conclude that if judicial review were to be conditioned on the continuing existence of an economic strike, the case would be of the type presenting an issue, capable of repetition and yet evading review and the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act would be frustrated.
We do not decide the merits of the controversy.
These are to be passed upon in the first instance by the courts below.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings.
The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Powell, Mr. Justice Rehnquist and I respectively disagree with the opinion and judgment of the Court in this case.
The Court reverses the Court of Appeals and holds that this case is not moot, despite the fact that the underlying Labor dispute that gave rise to the petitioner's claims ended even before the parties made their initial appearance in the District Court.
We think this holding ignores the limitations placed upon the federal judiciary by Article 3 of the Constitution and disregards as well the clear teachings of prior cases.
In our view, this case is completely controlled by two previous decisions in this Court.
Cases mentioned by my brother Blackmun in his oral announcement.
The first of these cases was Harris against Battle reported in Volume 348 of the United States Reports and the second was Oil Workers Union against Missouri, reported in Volume 361 of the United States Reports.
The doctrine of mootness is already a difficult and complex one and we think that the Court today muddies the waters further by disregarding the doctrine of stare decisis and straining unnecessarily to distinguish and limit some of the few clear and controlling precedents that are available to us.
For these reasons, we agree with the opinion of the Court of Appeals and we would affirm the judgment of that Court.
Our views are set out in more detail in a dissenting opinion I have filed with the clerk today.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart, thank you Mr. Justice Blackmun.