Supreme Court hears arguments on labor law, criminal procedure
Supreme Court hears arguments on labor law, criminal procedure
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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in two cases Wednesday. In Unite Here Local 355 v. Martin Mulhall [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court addressed the issue of whether an employer and union can violate Section 302 of Labor Management Relations Act [29 USC § 186] by entering into a neutrality agreement. An employee had filed the case against the union, and the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that organizing assistance can be a thing of value possibly constituting a violation of Section 302. Counsel for the union argued that the union did not receive a thing of value: “It’s certainly not a thing of value in the sense of marketability, because the one union could not sell it to the second union because the other union could get it free from the employer because the employer must give equal rights to all comers.” Counsel for the US, amicus curiae in the case, claimed that Section 302 does not prohibit the agreement at issue because the section cannot be read in isolation but in context with other labor laws:

Section 302 cannot be read in isolation from the remainder of the labor laws. The United States does not dispute that if all this Court had to look at was the words “thing of value” in Section 302, the promises that were at issue in this case could be viewed as things of value and, with a little bit of stretching of the language, could be viewed as paid, lent, or delivered.

Respondent’s counsel argued that “[e]nforcing Section 302 in this case cannot conflict with the National Labor Relations Act. As UNITE admits, organizing agreements such as this are meant to privatize the National Labor Relations Act and avoid the representational procedures.” Counsel Messenger further contended that:

the reason is it’s not the possession of the list that’s somehow wrongful. It’s the fact that it’s given by the employer, which creates the danger: What will the union give in exchange. That’s the danger that 302 exists to take care of, not that it’s necessarily wrongful per se for a union to have lists of information or the use of property, but what will it do in return. And unions have compromised employee interests in exchange for this type of assistance. They certainly have extorted employers. And here UNITE is willing to conduct a hundred-thousand-dollar political campaign for this information.

The court also heard arguments in Fernandez v. California [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] considering the Fourth Amendment [text] allows police to search an individual’s home based solely on a co-tenant’s consent after the police arrested the objecting individual and removed him from the scene. One of the main issues in this case is whether defendant’s objection barred his wife from giving a valid consent to the police to search the defendant’s home without a warrant. The defendant argued that his objection to search cannot be nullified by his subsequent arrest because it would create possibilities of state abuse. He argued:

All you have to do is arrest and remove them, and that’s the facts of this case. But even if you didn’t have the authority to arrest and remove them, the police always have the authority to exert control over the situation when they arrive at a dwelling and to say to a homeowner, sir, would you please come out to the curb and talk to me here, and I’m going to separate you from the other tenant. Under their theory, even that ordinary, boring part of police procedure extinguishes somebody’s Randolph rights immediately. And so their rule simply gives the police total control, whether for good faith or for bad faith—and I don’t think you’re going to want to have to try to answer that question—to immediately extinguish someone’s Randolph’s rights the moment they’re invoked.

Counsel for the state of California responded:

A present co-tenant’s consent to search is not nullified, must not be nullified or rendered invalid by an absent tenant’s prior objection. Everyone knows that when they choose to live together and one person is absent the other person has the authority. That person has the authority to admit visitors of her choice, to—and certainly to consent to a search of a shared premises.

The California Court of Appeal had affirmed [opinion] the defendant’s conviction, holding that his wife’s consent to search was valid.