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RILEY v. AMTRAK

January 14, 1993

SHERMAN RILEY, Petitioner,
v.
NATIONAL PASSENGER RAILROAD CORPORATION (AMTRAK), Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARVIN E. ASPEN

 MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge:

 Petitioner in this action, Sherman Riley ("Riley") brought this civil action under the statutory review procedures of the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q), seeking to set aside an arbitration award upholding the modified discipline assessed against him by Public Law Board No. 3625 ("Board") for misconduct. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, both parties have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, we deny petitioner's motion and grant summary judgment for respondent, National Passenger Railroad Corporation ("Amtrak").

 I. Standard of Review

 A. Review of Board Award

 Under the RLA, either a carrier or its employees may seek review of a board award in United States District Court. 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q). *fn1" In order to ensure the final and binding nature of board awards, the scope of judicial review "is among the narrowest in the law." Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen v. Louisville & Nashville R.R., 688 F.2d 535, 537 (7th Cir. 1982) (citation omitted). Thus, a court may set aside an award or remand it for further action only if (1) a board fails to comply with the RLA's requirements, (2) an award fails to conform, or confine itself, to matters within the scope of a board's jurisdiction, or (3) a board member engages in fraud or corruption. 45 U.S.C. 1153 First (q). A board exceeds its jurisdiction when its award violates the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 768 F.2d 914, 922 (7th Cir. 1985). However, a board acts within the scope of its jurisdiction when its award is "rationally explainable as a logical means of furthering the aims of that contract," even if the reviewing court does not agree with the board's interpretation. Diamond v. Terminal Ry. Alabama State Docks, 421 F.2d 228, 233 (5th Cir. 1970). See also Brotherhood of L. Engineers v. Atchison, T. & S.F.R., Co., 768 F.2d at 922 ("An arbitrator's award may be overturned only if the reviewing court is convinced that he was not trying to interpret the collective bargaining contract but that instead he resolved the parties' disputes according to his private notions of justice. The test is not error; it is ultra vires.").

 B. Summary Judgment

 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment should be denied "where there is reason to believe that the better course would be to proceed to a full trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986).

 II. Factual Background

 In 1989, Riley was employed as a carman for Amtrak in and about Chicago, Illinois and was a member of the Joint Council of Carmen, Helpers, Coach Cleaners and Apprentices ("Union"). The Union and Amtrak had negotiated a collective bargaining agreement ("Agreement") which, among other things, outlined the procedures and time limits to be followed in the discipline and investigation of carmen. Specifically, the Agreement provided that an "investigation shall be held at the city of employment within 10 calendar days of the date when notified of the offenses or held from service (subject to one postponement not to exceed an additional 10 calendar days)." Rule 23(b). Rule 23 does not describe what should happen in the event these time limits are abrogated.

 On March 7, 1989, Amtrak removed Riley from service and notified him of a formal investigation into allegations that he failed to give Train #323 a proper air test. An investigation hearing was initially scheduled for March 16, 1989. By mutual agreement between Amtrak and a Union representative, the March 16 hearing was rescheduled for March 23, 1989. At least some of Amtrak's witnesses, however, were unavailable to appear at the March 23 hearing. Accordingly, Amtrak postponed the hearing, which was rescheduled for April 10, 1989. The Hearing Officer notified Riley of the postponement and rescheduling on April 4, 1989.

 At the April 10, 1989 investigation hearing, a Union representative objected to the hearing on the grounds that it was being held in violation of Rule 23(b). The Hearing Officer noted the objection for the record, remarked that there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the postponements, and proceeded with the hearing. On April 20, 1989, he found that Amtrak had proven its charge against Riley, and he dismissed petitioner from service.

 After the Hearing Officer reached his decision, Riley submitted the matter to the Board. On September 5, 1990, the Board entered an award modifying the earlier decision by ...


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