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Conille v. Council 93

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 19, 2019

PHARAMOND CONILLE; YVES RIGAUD; MICHELET AUGUSTE; LOCAL 402, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; JACQUES LARAQUE; GUY RAPHAEL; JEAN LOUIS; JAMES SHEA; ELGA BERNARD; HODELIN AUBOURG; GABRIEL BERNARD; VERLEEN LEWIS; CARMESUZE MICHAUD; KALLOT JEAN-FRANCOIS; MONIQUE MODAN; JOSEPH BERLUS; MARIE AVELINE FORTUNAT; VALENTINE DUBUISSON; FRANCHETTE DORSAINVIL; SALLY ROGERS; STANLEY SIENKIEWICZ; YVONNE VASSELL, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
COUNCIL 93, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, Defendants, Appellees.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge]

          Mark D. Stern, with whom Mark D. Stern P.C. was on brief, for appellants.

          Paul F. Kelly, with whom Sasha N. Gillin and Segal Roitman, LLP were on brief, for appellees.

          Before Torruella, Lipez, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

          TORRUELLA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs-appellants, Local 402 and its Vice President, Pharamond Conille ("Conille"), appeal from the district court's findings, after a bench trial, that Local 402 never requested to appeal its deactivation to the International Executive Board ("IEB") and that it failed to prove that it was deactivated in retaliation for having exercised its free-speech rights. Because we find that Local 402 did request an appeal to the IEB, we reverse the district court's judgment and remand the case for an internal appeal to the IEB.

         I. Background[1]

         The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ("AFSCME") is an international labor union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations ("AFL-CIO").[2] AFSCME is the parent of Council 93, an intermediate union body representing approximately 36, 000 workers employed by public and private employers in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Council 93's representation is broken down into thirteen geographic and organizational legislative districts, which include the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services ("DDS"). As an affiliate of Council 93, Local 402 was chartered in 1953 to represent the DDS employees working at the Fernald State School ("Fernald") in Waltham, Massachusetts.[3]

         In the early 1990s, Massachusetts began to deinstitutionalize mental health patients and place them into community-based residential facilities. As a result, petitions were filed to amend the jurisdiction of some local unions to cover community-based facilities. Massachusetts announced its plan to close Fernald in 2003.

         In November 2011, Conille, Local 402's Vice President, was elected to serve as a DDS representative on Council 93's Executive Board, a position to which he was reelected in 2015. During this time, Conille fought to reform the disproportionate representation of Local 402 members on the Executive Board, inquired about the lack of racial minorities on the Executive Board, and advocated for racial minorities within the union.

         In March 2017, Pat Glynn, the Director of Strategic Planning for Council 93, requested that Local 402 be deactivated because "[t]here [were] no employees working within the jurisdiction of Local 402" after Fernald officially closed earlier that year.[4] In response, Local 402's President, Raymond McKinnon ("McKinnon"), wrote to a number of people, including AFSCME's President, Lee Saunders ("Saunders"), to stop the deactivation. He also sent a cease and desist letter to Council 93's Executive Director, Frank Moroney ("Moroney"), and filed charges with AFSCME's Judicial Panel for allegedly interfering with Local 402's ability to serve its members. In addition to McKinnon's efforts, Conille attempted to revise Local 402's charter to include additional worksites but was unsuccessful.

         Saunders made the decision to deactivate Local 402 on or about May 30, 2017. On June 2, 2017, AFSCME sent an order to Local 402 to return its funds and property. In response, on June 7, 2017, Local 402's legal counsel, Mark Stern ("Stern"), sent a letter challenging Saunders's decision and requesting that the deactivation be rescinded. AFSCME declined to acquiesce, stating that its decision to deactivate Local 402 was made in accordance with AFSCME's constitution. On June 12 or 13, 2017, the IEB ratified Saunders's decision to deactivate Local 402.

         Following deactivation, members of Local 402 were transferred to Local 646 or Local 1730. Conille was transferred to Local 646. At the next Council 93 Executive Board meeting, Conille was notified that he would no longer sit as a representative of Local 402 because this local had been deactivated and he was now a member of Local 646. Furthermore, Local 646 already had a representative on the Executive Board.

         On August 14, 2017, Conille and eighteen other members of Local 402 ("Local 402" collectively) filed suit against Council 93 and AFSCME ("Council 93" collectively). In the amended complaint filed on September 8, 2017, Local 402 alleged that: (1) Local 402 was denied equal voting rights as guaranteed under the AFSCME constitution and the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA")[5] (Count I); (2) Local 402's deactivation violated Article IX, Section 35 of the AFSCME constitution (Count II); and (3) Local 402 was deactivated as a retaliatory measure for Conille's free speech (Count III). Council 93 counterclaimed, asserting that Local 402 failed to return its assets, bank accounts, and records as required under its constitution following deactivation.

         On September 22, 2017, Local 402 filed a motion for partial summary judgment on Counts I and II, which Council 93 opposed. The district court denied summary judgment as to Count I because it found that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding the alleged "defects in the proportional voting" system implemented. As to Count II, the court held that Council 93's interpretation of AFSCME's constitution -- that is, that what had occurred was a deactivation of Local 402 under Article V, Section 6 and not a merger or consolidation under Article IX, Section 35 as Local 402 contended -- was reasonable, and thus, the court would defer to Council 93's interpretation. The district court, however, clarified the scope of its decision by stating, "all I decided, in deciding summary judgment against [Local 402] on Count 2, was that the interpretation[] of the [AFSCME] [c]onstitution, as advanced by the Council, was reasonable and . . . therefore the Court ought defer to it." As a result, the court left the question of Local 402's alleged wrongful deactivation for trial but decided it would defer to AFSCME's interpretation of its constitution --that Article V, Section 6, governed their breach of contract claim. A two-day bench trial took place on October 26-27, 2017.

         The district court issued its ruling from the bench on December 4, 2017. The court found in favor of Local 402 as to Count I, noting that the disproportionate representation on Council 93's Executive Board was not reasonable under Title I of the LMRDA. It, however, ruled in favor of Council 93 as to both Counts II and III.[6] The district court devoted almost the entirety of its bench ruling to the disproportionate representation of Council 93's Executive Board. As to the remaining counts, the court merely stated that Local 402 failed to persuade the court that it was entitled to judgment in its favor. The court stated that it would "supplement its order with more detailed findings and rulings." It then entered judgment.

         On December 14, 2017, Council 93 filed a motion to amend judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), requesting that the court enter judgment for Council 93 as to its counterclaim. On December 20, 2017, Local 402 filed its own post-judgment motion. The district court "denied" both parties' post-judgment motions on December 22, 2017, stating that, "[a]s this [c]ourt has already explained, a full memorandum of decision will [be] enter[ed] pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52. These motions are more properly addressed as motions to enforce the judgment."

         Thereafter, on January 2, 2018, Council 93 appealed from the district court's decision on Count I and its dismissal of Council 93's counterclaim. [7] On January 5, 2018, Local 402 requested an open-ended extension of time to appeal until the district court had provided the promised findings of facts and conclusions of law. The district court granted the motion on January 8, 2018. While still waiting for the ...


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