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National Labor Relations Board v. John S. Barnes Corp.

December 9, 1949

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, APPLICANT-APPELLEE,
v.
JOHN S. BARNES CORPORATION AND ERNEST J. SVENSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER OF JOHN S. BARNES CORPORATION, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS.



Author: Swaim

Before FINNEGAN, LINDLEY, and SWAIM, Circuit Judges.

SWAIM, C.J.:

This in an appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division, requiring obedience to certain subpoenas which ordered the respondent, John S. Barnes Corporation, and Ernest J. Svenson, one of its officers, to appear and testify and to produce certain documents and data before a hearing officer of the National Labor Relations Board at a designated time and place.

The subpoenas in question were issued by the Regional Director of the Thirteenth Region of the National Labor Relations Board.

This appeal is predicated on respondents' contention that the National Labor Relations Act gives the power to issue subpoenas only to the Board or one of the members thereof and that such power is not delegable.

The subpoenas were issued in aid of an investigation by the Board into the question of whether the employees of the respondent corporation desired to be represented in collective bargaining by a labor organization. The parties stipulated that the subpoenas were issued pursuant to the general procedure followed by the National Labor Relations Board; that under this procedure the regional offices are supplied with blank subpoena forms, bearing the seal of the National Labor Relations Board and a signature of a member; that when a written application for a subpoena is filed by a party to a proceeding, the Regional Director inserts the name of the party to be served into one of these blank subpoena forms over the seal of the National Labor Relations Board and over the signature of a member of the National Labor Relations Board; that the party requesting the subpoena is then responsible for the filling-in of the other blanks of the form and for the serving of the subpoena.

The parties stipulated further that in this case the Regional Director, as a party to the proceedings, made application in writing for the issuance of the subpoenas; that the Regional Director approved his own application on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board; and that on January 26, 1949, at the Chicago Regional Office, "the names, dates and other matters were, by or at the direction of said Regional Director, typed into the blank subpoena forms over the signature of John M. Houston, a member of the Board, and over the seal of the National Labor Relations Board."

The respondent contends that since the National Labor Relations Act, as amended gives no express authority to the Regional Directors of the Board to issue subpoenas, any such authority must depend upon delegation by the National Labor Relations Board; that if the subpoenas issued by the Regional Directors are to be valid, the National Labor Relations Board must have authority to delegate its subpoena powers.

The respondents' first proposition is that the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, as last amended, 29 U.S.C.A., Supp. I, ยงยง 141, et seq., impliedly negative the power of the Board to delegate the authority to issue subpoenas. Section 11(1) of the Act provides as follows:

"For the purpose of all hearings and investigations which, in the opinion of the Board, are necessary and proper for the exercise of the powers vested in it by section 9 and section 10 -

"(1) The Board, or its duly authorized agents or agencies, shall at all reasonable times have access to, for the purpose of examination, and the right to copy any evidence of any person being investigated or proceeded against that relates to any matter under investigation or in question. The Board, or any member thereof, shall upon application of any party to such proceedings, forthwith issue to such party subpoenas requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses or the production of any evidence in such proceeding or investigation requested in such application. Within five days after the service of a subpoena on any person requiring the production of any evidence in his possession or under his control, such person may petition the Board to revoke, and the Board shall revoke, such subpoena if in its opinion the evidence whose production is required does not relate to any matter under investigation, or any matter in question in such proceedings, or if in its opinion such subpoena does not describe with sufficient particularity the evidence whose production is required. Any member of the Board, or any agent or agency designated by the Board for such purposes, may administer oaths and affirmations, examine witnesses, and receive evidence. * * *"

The respondent points out that Section 11(1) expressly authorizes the Board to delegate to its agents the right to have access to, to examine and to copy any relevant evidence of any person being investigated or proceeded against; that the same section also expressly authorizes the Board to delegate to any agent or agency the power to administer oaths and affirmations, to examine witnesses and to receive evidence; and that the power to issue subpoenas was given only to the "board or any member thereof" without any express authorization to delegate this power.

The respondent contends that these express authorizations to the Board to delegate certain of its powers and the failure to expressly authorize the delegation of the subpoena power indicate that Congress did not intend that the Board should have the right to delegate the subpoena power to any agent. If our examination of this question were limited to a consideration of the language contained in Section 11(1) of the Act we would be inclined to agree with this contention of the respondent.

However, if we are to determine the intent of Congress, we must go further than an investigation of the language of the particular section of the Act. We must consider the Act as a whole, its various provisions, its purpose, what Congress expected the National Labor ...


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