United States v. Ryan

PETITIONER: United States

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

ARGUED: Jan 19, 1956
DECIDED: Feb 27, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Ryan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1956 in United States v. Ryan

Earl Warren:

Number 281, United States of America versus Joseph P. Ryan.

Mr. Davis.

Oscar H. Davis:

May it please the Court.

This is a criminal case here on certiorari to the Second Circuit after conviction in the District Court and reversal in -- in that Court of Appeals.

The single question which the Government, as the petitioner, presents is one of statutory construction of a section of the Taft-Hartley law, the Labor Management Relations Act.

It involved section 302 of that statute and the -- and that particular section forbids the receipt by any representative of any employees of an industry engaged in interstate commerce or affecting interstate commerce of any payment from the employer of such employees.

And the question here is when -- when Congress used the phrase in that section, "Any representatives of any employees," it meant to cover the president of the union which was the collective bargaining agent for the employees in that industry in that locality, who was also the negotiator for the union of its collective bargaining agreement or whether Congress restricted its coverage to the union itself, not to any officials of the union or any negotiators for the union.

The facts of the case are not complicated.

They are these.

The respondent Ryan was in the relevant years, which were 1950 and 1951, the president of the International Longshoremen's Association, which is a well-known labor union of stevedores and stevedoring employees and longshoremen.

He was the president of the union and also of its Atlantic Coast District.

He was one of the union's negotiators of its collective bargaining agreements in the Port of New York and he was assignor of those agreements.

The union was the collective bargaining agency for the longshoremen in New York.

And it negotiated with an organization called the New York Shipping Association which was the agent for the employers.

Now, in the years 1950 and in 1951, Mr. Ryan received from two stevedoring operators, two employers in the Port of New York sums -- three times, the sum of $1000, sum $1000 and a sum of $500.

He received these from these -- received these sums from these employers.

He was indicted under this section of the Taft-Hartley Act for receiving these sums.

And he was tried by Judge Palmieri in the Southern District of New York without a jury and was found guilty and he was sentenced to concurrent sentences of six months and a fine of $2500.

On appeal to the Second Circuit, the conviction was reversed solely on the following ground.

That section 302, the particular section involved, relates only to the collective bargaining agent itself of the union.

It does not relate to any of the officials or negotiators for the union.

Judge Learned Hand dissented.

Now, there are some other questions in the case which the Second Circuit did not go into and if the Government should prevail here, the case would have to be remanded to the Second Circuit for consideration of those questions of whether evidence was sufficient to support the verdict and so forth.

The only issue here which we raise is as to the meaning of the statute.

And as what we -- having gleaned from my statement, the position of respondent is that of the Court of Appeals.

That when Congress said in that section of that statute, "Any representative of any employees," it used the section representative in a technical sense meaning only the collective bargaining agent and not the union officials or the negotiators for the union.

And, of course, our position is to the contrary.

We rest on both of the text and the context of the -- of the words of the statute.

We rest on its legislative history.

We feel that if the position of the respondents and of the majority of the Court of Appeals is sustained, the congressional purpose will be frustrated.