BROWN V. DEPT. OF LAW & PUB. SAFETY, 468 U. S. 491 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. Dept. of Law & Pub. Safety, 468 U.S. 491 (1984)

Brown v. Department of Law and Public Safety

No. 83-498

Argued March 26, 1984

Decided July 2, 1984*

468 U.S. 491


Section 93 of the New Jersey Casino Control Act requires annual registration of unions representing persons employed in casinos or casino hotels, and provides that a union may be prohibited from receiving dues from such employees and from administering any pension or welfare funds if any union officer is disqualified under the criteria contained in § 86 for the licensing of various entities and persons. Those criteria include convictions for enumerated offenses, or any other offenses indicating that licensure would be inimical to the Act's policy, and association with other criminal offenders. Appellees, a union whose membership includes persons employed in casino hotels in Atlantic City and the union's president, instituted an action against certain state agencies and officials in Federal District Court, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief after state administrative proceedings had been begun to determine whether certain of the union's officers were disqualified under the criteria of § 86. The court denied appellees' motion for a preliminary injunction against the state proceedings, concluding that appellees were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims, which included a claim that §§ 86 and 93 were preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The state administrative proceedings resulted in a finding that certain of the union's officials were disqualified under § 86, and in an order that, if the officials were not removed from office, the union would be barred from collecting dues from any of its members who were casino hotel employees licensed or registered under the New Jersey Act. The state agency also concluded that it would be unnecessary to invoke the additional § 93 sanction of prohibiting the disqualified officials from administering pension and welfare funds. Thereafter, the Court of Appeals held, inter

Page 468 U. S. 492

alia, that the District Court erred in refusing to grant the preliminary injunction, and that § 93, insofar as it authorizes disqualification of elected union officials, is preempted by § 7 of the NLRA.


1. The so-called "local interests" exception to the preemption doctrine does not apply if the state law regulates conduct that is actually protected by federal law. Where, as here, the issue is one of an asserted substantive conflict with a federal enactment, then the relative importance to the State of its law is not material, since the federal law must prevail by direct operation of the Supremacy Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 468 U. S. 500-503.

2. Section 93 of the New Jersey Act, to the extent that it regulates the qualifications of casino industry union officials, does not actually conflict with § 7 of the NLRA -- which neither contains explicit preemptive language nor otherwise indicates a congressional intent to usurp the entire field of labor-management relations -- and thus is not preempted by § 7. Although the 1945 decision in Hill v. Florida, 325 U. S. 538, interpreted § 7's express guarantee of the right of employees to choose their bargaining representative as also conferring an unfettered right on employees to choose the officials of their bargaining representative, Congress has subsequently disclaimed any intent to preempt all state regulation which touches upon the specific right of employees to decide which individuals will serve as officials of their bargaining representatives. Specifically, § 504(a) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 generally prohibits persons convicted of specified crimes from serving as union officers, and § 603(a) of that Act is an express disclaimer of preemption of state laws regulating union officials' responsibilities except where such preemption is expressly provided. Moreover, in approving a compact between New York and New Jersey, Congress implicitly approved New York's restrictions (similar to those involved here) on unions representing waterfront employees, which restrictions were upheld against a preemption challenge based on § 7 of the NLRA in De Veau v. Braisted, 363 U. S. 144. Thus, Congress apparently has concluded that, at least where the States are confronted with the public evils of crime, corruption, and racketeering, more stringent state regulation of the qualifications of union officials is not incompatible with the national labor policy as embodied in § 7. Pp. 468 U. S. 503-510.

3. The issue whether the dues collection sanction authorized by § 93 of the New Jersey Act to effect the removal of disqualified union officials abridges the employees' separate rights under § 7 of the NLRA to organize, and thus is preempted, cannot be decided now, because of the procedural posture of this litigation. Appellees' factual allegations as to this issue were never addressed by the courts below. On remand, the

Page 468 U. S. 493

District Court should make the requisite findings of fact to determine whether imposition of the dues collection ban will so incapacitate appellee union as to prevent it from performing its functions as the employees' chosen bargaining agent. Also, the issue of the validity of § 93's second sanction -- prohibition of a union's administration of its pension or welfare funds cannot be decided now, despite the Court of Appeals' holding that the sanction is expressly preempted by provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Because the state agency never imposed this sanction on appellee union, no concrete application of state law is presented, and the issue is hence not ripe for review. Pp. 468 U. S. 510-512.

709 F.2d 815, vacated and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 468 U. S. 513. BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., took no part in the decision of the cases.

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