Certiorari granted in Union Pacific v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
February 23, 2009 by Ross Runkel at LawMemo
Five employees of the Union Pacific Railroad filed claims through their Union (the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen) contesting a discharge or discipline imposed by the Railroad. Rather than resolving the dispute over the propriety of the discipline, the National Railroad Adjustment Board concluded that the Union had failed to submit conclusive evidence that the parties had held a conference to attempt to resolve the dispute - a procedural prerequisite to arbitration - and thus the Board determined that it was required to dismiss the claim for lack of jurisdiction. The district court agreed. The 7th Circuit reversed.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen General Committee of Adjustment, Central Region v. Union Pacific Railroad Company (7th Cir 04/09/2008); rehearing denied, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen General Committee of Adjustment, Central Region v. Union Pacific Railroad Company (7th Cir 08/11/2008)
Although the 7th Circuit agreed with the district court that it has always been clear that the parties must conference, and that they must submit evidence of that fact, it heretofore has not been clear when and how that evidence must be presented. The court found that the Board denied the Union due process by requiring evidence of conferencing to be presented in the on-property record, a requirement not clearly enunciated in the statutes, regulations, or the collective bargaining agreement of the parties. Consequently, the 7th Circuit reversed.
The US Supreme Court granted certiorari on February 23, 2009 to review the 7th Circuit judgment.
Justice Ginsburg nixes a stay of decision allowing class action arbitration
February 19, 2009 by Ross Runkel at LawMemo
Today US Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg denied an application to stay a 2nd Circuit ruling that allows a class action arbitration.
[Application for stay]
In Stolt-Nielsen SA, et al., v. AnimalFeeds International (2nd Circuit 11/04/2008) the court was handling an appeal from a district court decision vacating an arbitration award. The district court vacated the award on the ground that the arbitrators exhibited a "manifest disregard for the law" by ordering a class action arbitration where the arbitration agreement was silent as to class actions.
The 2nd Circuit reversed and held: "Because the parties specifically agreed that the arbitration panel would decide whether the arbitration clauses permitted class arbitration, the arbitration panel did not exceed its authority in deciding that issue –- irrespective of whether it decided the issue correctly."
My view: The arbitrators were simply interpreting a silent arbitration agreement so as to allow class action arbitration. There was no disregard of any law.
One may argue that the arbitrators misinterpreted the contract, but that is not a ground for vacating the award.
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