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Supreme Court to Decide Labor Dispute Case

Supreme Court to Decide Labor Dispute Case

The Associated Press via YellowBrix

November 04, 2009

The Supreme Court said Monday that it will decide whether two people can do the work of five when it comes to resolving labor-management disputes in the workplace.

The National Labor Relations Board, which for decades has had the responsibility of policing similar disputes, has operated with two members — and three vacancies — for more than a year. The reason for this is that Democrats who retook control of Congress in 2006 objected to President George W. Bush’s labor policies and thus refused to confirm his nominees.

But the two NLRB members still in place have continued to issue decisions, making about 400 in the past 16 months.

Federal appeals courts have split on whether decisions made by two board members are legal. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said an NLRB decision handed down last year was invalid because it was made by two members.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago took the opposite position. It ruled that a vote by the two members was appropriate and binding.

The NLRB is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1935.

The case is New Process Steel v. NLRB.

The court on Monday also left in place a judge’s ruling that allowed prosecutors to charge a reputed Ku Klux Klansman with kidnapping more than 40 years after two black men were abducted and killed in rural Mississippi.

The justices rejected a plea from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to rule on whether too much time had elapsed for the case against James Ford Seale to go forward. The action leaves in place a lower court’s ruling that the statute of limitations had not expired for a federal kidnapping charge against Seale in the 1964 disappearance of the two 19-year-old friends.

Seale was convicted in 2007 of abducting the men. Authorities said they were beaten, weighted down and thrown, possibly still alive, into a Mississippi River backwater.

Disagreeing with their colleagues, Justices John Paul Stevens and Antonin Scalia said the high court should have agreed to hear the case because it raises an important issue that potentially affects similar prosecutions.

The case is U.S. v. Seale.

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