Union Pacific R. Co. v. Locomotive Engineers - Oral Argument - October 07, 2009

Union Pacific R. Co. v. Locomotive Engineers

Media for Union Pacific R. Co. v. Locomotive Engineers

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 08, 2009 in Union Pacific R. Co. v. Locomotive Engineers

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 2009 in Union Pacific R. Co. v. Locomotive Engineers

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument next in Case 08-604, Union Pacific Railroad v. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Mr. Ballenger.

J. Scott Ballenger:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Section 3 First (q) of the Railway Labor Act says that the findings in an order of the division shall be conclusive on the parties, except that the order of the division may be set aside for one of three specified reasons.

As a matter of plain dictionary meaning in this context, "except" means that there are three and only three exceptions to the otherwise conclusive nature of these awards.

In the Sheehan case, this Court explains that the dispositive question is whether the parties' objections falls within one of the three reasons specified within the statute.

This Court explained that the statutory language means just what it says and that a contrary conclusion would ignore the terms, purposes--

Sonia Sotomayor:

Counsel, the circuit court did things in an unusual order.

Instead of reaching the statutory question, it reached the constitutional question, in par, because it viewed the two as intertwined.

Why isn't its judgment that there's a statutory violation what's at issue before us, because that's what they said?

J. Scott Ballenger:

--Well, Your Honor, it certainly would be this Court's prerogative and appropriate for this Court to choose to reach the statutory ground first, but we think that the Respondents have no viable claim under the statute, and so then--

Sonia Sotomayor:

Why not?

J. Scott Ballenger:

--Their only claim under the statute is under the second statutory ground of review for an award that fails to confine or conform itself to the board's jurisdiction.

An arbitrator's jurisdiction--

Sonia Sotomayor:


It's an award that is contrary to the act.

J. Scott Ballenger:

--But, Your Honor--

Sonia Sotomayor:

That's the--

J. Scott Ballenger:

--They -- they have never made that argument, Your Honor.

Sonia Sotomayor:

--Well, I saw it in their brief to the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit analyzed the requirements of the act and of circular one and said the board's ruling is not based on those.

J. Scott Ballenger:

Your Honor, on -- on page 5 of their brief to the Seventh Circuit, they waived any argument based on that first statutory ground of review.

There was a first count in their petition for review that was based on that statutory ground, and on page 5 they renounced it.

The only--

Stephen G. Breyer:

It's the same argument -- it's the same argument, as if you had an APA case, and the words in the APA are

"arbitrary, capricious, abuse of discretion. "

so somebody who has an unfair procedure says it violates those words.

J. Scott Ballenger:

--Well, if--

Stephen G. Breyer:

And I don't really see that it's any different, except we normally go to those words before we would decide a due process question.

It's the similar kind of question.