United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America, Local 610, AFL-CIO v. Scott

PETITIONER: United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America, Local 610, AFL-CIO
LOCATION: Internal Revenue Service

DOCKET NO.: 82-486
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 463 US 825 (1983)
ARGUED: Apr 26, 1983
DECIDED: Jul 05, 1983

Laurence Stephen Gold - on behalf of the Petitioners
Robert Q. Keith - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America, Local 610, AFL-CIO v. Scott

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 1983 in United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America, Local 610, AFL-CIO v. Scott

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in United Brotherhood of Carpenters against Scott and others.

Mr. Gold, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Laurence Stephen Gold:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

This case concerns the scope of 42 U.S.C. Section 1985(3), the lineal descendent provision of Section 2 of the 1871 Civil Rights Act.

As the Court of Appeals majority stated, this case grows out of an episode of mob violence at the Alligator Bayou Pumping Station construction site near Port Arthur, Texas that caused both serious injuries and substantial property damage.

That wrongdoing led to this federal court suit brought by two individuals and by the general contractor at that job site and to avert it in favor of the plaintiffs and against three local unions which are the petitioners here.

The basic legal questions on which the Fifth Circuit sitting en banc split 14 to nine concern the meaning of the phrases "equal protection of the laws" and

"equal privileges and immunities under the laws. "

as used in Section 1985(3).

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Gold, why would a plaintiff or group of plaintiffs file a suit under Section 1985(3) instead of a state tort action?

Is it because of the recovery potentially of attorney's fees or what?

Laurence Stephen Gold:

I am hard pressed to understand that myself, Justice O'Connor.

I take it that the hope here was that this would be a more effective law suit from the plaintiffs' standpoint despite the--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

You think that would center around the recovery of attorney's fees question?

Laurence Stephen Gold:

--That is, certainly in light of the Civil Rights Act attorney's fees statute, that could well be a motive, and the countervailing... why the plaintiffs were not impressed by the countervailing consideration that there are very, very difficult legal questions here and a straightforward tort case in the state court system, I am really not privy to--

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, I suppose in Beaumont, Port Arthur you have got elected judges and there might be some feeling that you do not get quite the same neutrality from elected judges as you do from lifetime federal judges.

Laurence Stephen Gold:

--There are also appellate judges in Texas up and down the system, and I can only say that there isn't a whisper in this record that the state justice system was not open to and fully protective of the rights and interests of plaintiff companies and non-union employees in the State of Texas.

Indeed, there were 13 indictments growing out of this episode, three convictions, two people in jail for substantial terms indeed.

So in all those respects this is not your garden variety case for choosing a federal court as opposed to a state court.

The en banc majority below analyzed Section 1985(3) as requiring a showing aside from the conspiracy and acts pursuant to the conspiracy and injury are the violation of some protected right and moreover class-based invidiously discriminatory animus motivating the invasion of that right and motivating the conspiracy.

The court found that the right of economic association is such a protected right and, indeed, analyzed the matter as comprising a protected right under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

That court rejected our contention that for 1985(3), as is generally true, to show the invasion of a First and Fourteenth Amendment right as opposed to the invasion of the rights guaranteed by the Thirteenth Amendment or the rights guaranteed by the right of travel.

There has to be a showing of state action.

That court took the view that the contention I have just outlined had been rejected in Griffin v. Breckenridge, this Court's leading modern case on the scope of Section 1985(3).

We cannot improve upon, and we have quoted at page 39 of our opening brief, the blue brief, the analysis of this issue by Justice Stevens in Novotny.

We rest on that analysis and in terms of an analysis of the statute, neither the court below nor the respondents challenge the accuracy of the insights stated there.

Rather both contend that that view of the statute is precluded by Griffin.

It is our view that Griffin simply did not address this problem.

Griffin was a case involving a conspiracy aimed at black Americans attempting to assert their civil rights and those who would assist them.

The court analyzed the matter as resting on the Thirteenth Amendment base and the right and power of Congress to do away with the badges and incidence of slavery.