Trainmen v. O'Connell

PETITIONER: Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen
RESPONDENT: O'Connell
LOCATION: Surface Transportation Board at the United States Department of Transportation

DOCKET NO.: 158
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 395 US 210 (1969)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1969
DECIDED: May 26, 1969

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Trainmen v. O'Connell

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1969 in Trainmen v. O'Connell

Earl Warren:

Number 172, Elmer Dirks, individually and as General Chairman of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen et al., petitioners, versus W.L. Birkholz et al.

Mr. Uelmen.

David L. Uelmen:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case does present the same legal issue that was presented in the previous case, although the language of the contrary is slightly different.

And, there -- in our opinion, there is no mootness problem here and, to that end, we did file the supplemental brief a few days ago, to which I believe Justice Fortas referred earlier.

Abe Fortas:

Yes, but the difficulty is that this is here on certiorari, isn’t it?

David L. Uelmen:

That’s correct, Your Honor.

Abe Fortas:

And, the basic issue, it maybe a money claim pending but the question in my mind is whether it’s a matter that we would -- which we would have granted certiorari if the facts had been established, if the facts that seem to exist now existed at the time that we considered the petition for certiorari.

David L. Uelmen:

Well, of course, the merger facts didn’t exist at that --

Abe Fortas:

I know that, but I say that if they did, the question is whether we would have issued the -- issued the writ here.

David L. Uelmen:

You mean, because the amount of dues paid to the Brotherhood by the individual claimants and their class was a small amount of money?

Abe Fortas:

Well, not that, so much as that the underlying issue seems to be one in which -- which might not be appropriate.

I don’t know whether it is or not because we haven’t heard from the other side.

The other side filed nothing here, and I know this is your supplemental pleading here, but --

David L. Uelmen:

Well, the difference --

Abe Fortas:

I don't know.

I don't know that we would have -- I don't know that certiorari would have been granted.

I don't know that it wouldn't.

Well, I just don't know that certiorari would have been granted because, here, you have people arguing a very important issue on the basis not of a basic conflict of interest, but on the basis of a relatively small money judgment below.

David L. Uelmen:

Well, there was a small money judgment involved in the Felter case against the Southern Pacific also because it involved only the check off dues of one particular man.

Abe Fortas:

I know, but --

David L. Uelmen:

And, in this case --

Abe Fortas:

Of course the question about the kind of -- I know which we are to spend this -- spend our own time on these cases.

David L. Uelmen:

The difference in this case and in the previous case, of course, is that there was no restraining order issued in this case.

The effort to obtain the restraining order failed and, as a result, the plaintiff and his class were compelled to join the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, and they were compelled to pay dues to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.

And, when the appeal was pending in the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, those plaintiffs argued to that Court that they wanted the case remanded to the Trial Court for the purpose of having their dues money that they had paid to the Brotherhood restored to them.

And that issue, of course, the issue of money damages, still makes this a live issue or a case of controversy for this Court because even if this Court does, pursuant to a mootness point, reverse and remand it and vacate the judgment, then these individual plaintiffs and the class that they represent will not be restored to the dues that they paid and would still have the claim for that money.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

But, Mr. Uelmen.

David L. Uelmen:

Excuse me.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

I expect, as Justice Fortas suggested, this ins -- this case may not be moot.