United Mine Workers of America, District 12 v. Illinois Bar Association

PETITIONER: United Mine Workers of America, District 12
RESPONDENT: Illinois Bar Association
LOCATION: Seward High School

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 389 US 217 (1967)
ARGUED: Oct 17, 1967
DECIDED: Dec 05, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for United Mine Workers of America, District 12 v. Illinois Bar Association

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 17, 1967 in United Mine Workers of America, District 12 v. Illinois Bar Association

Earl Warren:

Number 12, United Mine Workers of America, District 12, Petitioner, versus Illinois State Bar Association.

Mr. Combs.

Harrison Combs:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The principal question involved in this case is whether or not that a State Court decree conflicts with rights of coal miners, members of labor union and it holds that such labor union is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by employing an attorney on a salary basis to represent it’s members with respect to claims arising under the state’s Workmen’s Compensation Law.

The Bar Association of the State of Illinois filed a complaint in the Sangamon Circuit Court on behalf of it’s committee on unauthorized practice of law alleging that for many years District 12, United Mine Workers had been engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in that it involved an attorney, a duly licensed attorney, State of Illinois to represent its members on workmen’s compensation claims who were injured in the course of their employment.

District 12 filed an answer admitting that it did employ such an attorney by stating that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States that it had a right to do this.

It denied that it had engaged at time in the unauthorized practice of law.

The Court granted a sovereign decree in the Circuit Court in Sangamon County and joining the continuation of this legal aid claim.

District 12, United Mine Workers appealed to the Supreme Court of Illinois and this Court affirmed the decree of the Sangamon Circuit Court.

The legal aid plan in question here was set up by a convention of District 12, United Mine Workers in 1913 at a convention held at Peoria, Illinois.

The convention consisted of delegates from the various local unions and various coal mines in the state of Illinois.

Now District 12 is a branch of United Mine Workers of America, a national labor organization.

It's composed of some 14,000 members; 8,500 of these members are working members and some 5,500 are retired members.

The legal aid plan in question here was set up as I say in 1913.

It was set up because the delegates, the coal miners at the convention in their discussions said that the claims that they were filing in the state Courts with connection with their injuries were being mishandled.

I think the words juggled were used and that even the claims were not mishandled that it cost the injured employee approximately 50, from 40% to 50% of the rewards given and attorney fees and in cost to the Court.

Potter Stewart:

That was for the day, Workmen's Compensation Act 1913.

Harrison Combs:

Workmen's compensation solely.

Potter Stewart:

But it was before the days workmen's compensation wasn't it?

Harrison Combs:

Well it was in fact that contemporaneously worth it, I think that the workmen's compensation law was passed in 1912, if I'm not mistaken and this occurred in 1913.

Now frankly Your Honor that the discussions merged in the gut of the need of a Workmen's Compensation Act as well as problem they we are having of recovering any damage since that common law.

Potter Stewart:

Since I have already interrupted you, you tell me what is District 12, is that the statewide --?

Harrison Combs:

Yes Your Honor, District 12 is branch of national organization, administrative purposes and this jurisdiction is in the State of Illinois and Iowa.

Potter Stewart:

Throughout the state of Illinois and Iowa you say?

Harrison Combs:


But the Compensation Act and the legal aid plan is confined here to the State of Illinois.

Potter Stewart:

Is this, does the UMW have the same plans or similar plans in other states?

Harrison Combs:

Yes Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

How many other states?

Harrison Combs:

I would say they operate in 28 states and I would say that over half of them have some plan of similar nature to this.