Standard for Suing A Union Officer Addressed By 5th Circuit
by Michael Fox
When a Southwest Pilot and member of the Southwest Airline Pilots Union sought to sue three of the officers of the union for breach of fiduciary duties under Title V of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 29 U.S.C. §501(a), the Court had to address for the first time what must be shown to meet the pre-requisite "good cause" requirement contained in §501(b). Hoffman vs. Kramer (5th Cir. 3/5/04) [pdf]. (Totally unrelated to Kramer v. Kramer, starring Dustin Hoffman.)
The Court established the following five point test for satisfying the good cause requirement:
To sum up, the substance of the “good cause” requirement of §501(b) requires a few essential steps for district courts to take beyond Rule 12(b)(6) in evaluating applications for leave to sue union officials. First, the court must determine that the alleged misconduct directly relates to the duties enumerated in § 501(a). Second, because of the derivative nature of an applicant’s suit, the court must satisfy itself that the applicant seeks remedies that would realistically benefit the union as the collective bargaining representative of its members and/or the membership of the union. Third, the application must allege facts that will support a conclusion that the alleged breaches of § 501 were presented to the union. Fourth, the applicant must make a showing that the union’s refusal to act on the breaches presented to it was objectively unreasonable in the ways we have earlier discussed. Finally, after the court is satisfied that these conditions are met, the plaintiff must convince the court by the allegations of the verified application, or affidavit or otherwise, that some evidence exists, disputed or not, that will support the claims of a breach of fiduciary duty under § 501(a).
Having set out the requirements, the Court then concludes that they are not met in this case.