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A. Bauer Mechanical, Inc. v. Joint Arbitration Board of the Plumbing Contractors' Association

March 25, 2009

A. BAUER MECHANICAL, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JOINT ARBITRATION BOARD OF THE PLUMBING CONTRACTORS' ASSOCIATION AND CHICAGO JOURNEYMEN PLUMBERS' LOCAL UNION 130, U.A. AND CHICAGO JOURNEYMEN PLUMBERS' LOCAL UNION 130, U.A., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 06 C 1725-Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Williams, Circuit Judge

ARGUED SEPTEMBER 17, 2008

Before MANION, WOOD, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

A. Bauer Mechanical, Inc., ("Bauer") filed a complaint in Illinois state court seeking to vacate an award issued by an arbitration board pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. The defendants, Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union 130, U.A., ("the Union") removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and subsequently moved to file instanter an answer and, along with intervening counterplaintiffs, a counterclaim to enforce the arbitration board's ruling. Both the answer and counterclaim were attached to the motion for leave to file instanter. Bauer did not reply to the counter-claim because, it contends, the pleadings were not properly filed. The district court entered a default judgment against Bauer for the amount stipulated by the arbitration board, plus interest, and also awarded attorneys' fees. We conclude that the answer and counter-claim were properly filed and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not prohibit a court from accepting pleadings attached to motions. We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

Bauer is an Illinois plumbing contractor and a successor to Hausman Plumbing & Heating Company ("Hausman"). The Joint Arbitration Board of the Plumbing Contractors' Association and Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union ("the Board") is an arbitral tribunal established pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement and is authorized to enforce the agreement in disputes between the parties. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union 130, U.A. and Hausman were among the parties that entered into a collective bargaining agreement in effect from June 1, 2001, through May 31, 2007. This agreement became binding upon Bauer as Hausman's successor.

On May 19, 2005, upon charges filed by the Union, the Board found that Hausman violated the collective bargaining agreement by failing to make payments for unre-ported hours worked by licensed journeymen, and by permitting employees other than licensed journeymen or apprentice plumbers to perform work within the Union's jurisdiction. The Board ordered Bauer, as Hausman's successor, to pay $54,657.12 in contributions and fines and $8,377.54 in interest, divided among the various union benefit funds and The Plumbing Council of Chicagoland.*fn1 The Board also set an interest penalty of $694.19 per month until Bauer paid the award in full.

On February 17, 2006, Bauer filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois seeking to vacate and/or modify the arbitration award and naming the Union, the Board, and the Plumbing Contractors' Association as defendants. The defendants filed a notice of removal on March 29, 2006, and removed this action to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. On April 5, 2006, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the court granted as to all defendants except for the Union. The Union then filed a motion for leave to file instanter an answer to Bauer's complaint and, along with other arbitration award recipients (hereinafter "counterplaintiffs"), a counterclaim to enforce the arbitration award.*fn2 The answer and counter- claim were attached to the motion for leave to file instanter and the district court accepted the pleadings after it granted the motion on May 24, 2006.

On August 1, 2006, after receiving no response to their counterclaim, the counterplaintiffs filed a motion for entry of judgment. At the hearing, Bauer argued that the pleadings attached to the motion were not properly filed. The district court resolved the issue by recognizing the pleadings and granted Bauer a fourteen-day extension to "respond" to the counterclaims. On September 5, 2006, Bauer filed a response in opposition to the motion for entry of judgment, essentially restating the argument it had presented at the previous hearing-that the counter-claim was not properly filed. Bauer's response, however, did not address the merits of the counterclaim. As a result, the district court granted the counterplaintiffs' motion for entry of judgment on September 25, 2006, and awarded them $79,695.22, which included the arbitration award plus interest. Bauer filed a motion to vacate judgment, which the district court denied on October 5, 2006, and Bauer filed its first notice of appeal on October 31, 2006. The Union and the other counterplaintiffs also filed a motion for fees and expenses under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)(D), and the district court awarded $36,820.00 in fees and $721.92 in expenses.

On January 25, 2007, the Union filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings on Bauer's complaint, which sought to vacate and/or modify the arbitration award. Bauer did not appear at the hearing and, on February 8, 2007, the district court issued an order dismissing Bauer's complaint. The court also declared all judgments (including the court's September 25, 2006, ruling granting the Union's motion for entry of judgment on its counter-claim) final and appealable. Bauer filed a second notice of appeal on March 22, 2007, from the district court's February 8, 2007 order (entered on February 20, 2007) dismissing its complaint.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Jurisdiction

Before reaching the merits, we must determine whether this court has jurisdiction to address Bauer's appeal from the district court's September 2006 order enforcing the arbitration award. The Union asserts that this ruling was not a final judgment and that Bauer's notice of appeal had no effect.

The district court proceedings shed light on some of the confusion surrounding this issue. The parties presented three primary claims before the court: (1) Bauer's complaint, which sought to vacate the arbitration board's ruling (at least as it applied to Bauer); (2) the Union and other counterplaintiffs' counterclaim, which sought to enforce the ...


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