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Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 1, 2014

REBECCA FRIEDRICHS, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CALIFORNIA TEACHERS ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants-Appellees, KAMALA D. HARRIS, Attorney General of California, Defendant-Intervenor,

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana No. 8:13-cv-00676-JLS-CW Judge Josephine L. Staton

          Michael E. Rosman CENTER FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS Michael A. Carvin Counsel of Record James M. Burnham William D. Coglianese Counsel for Appellants

          Christopher P. Burger SCHOOLS LEGAL SERVICE Counsel for Appellee Donald E. Carter

          Henry Chi-Jen Wang BAUTE CROCHETIERE & MALONEY LLP Counsel for Appellee Ruth Pérez

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         Statement with Respect to Oral Argument ............................................................... 1

         Introduction ............................................................................................................... 2

         Jurisdictional Statement ............................................................................................ 4

         Issues Presented ........................................................................................................ 4

         Pertinent Authorities ................................................................................................. 4

         Statement of the Case ................................................................................................ 5

         I. Factual Background ........................................................................................ 5

         A. California's Agency-Shop Law for Public-School Teachers .................... 5

         B. The Agency-Shop Arrangements Enforced by Appellees ........................ 8

         C. The Non-Union Teachers ........................................................................ 10

         II. Procedural Background ................................................................................ 11

         Summary of the Argument ...................................................................................... 12

         Argument ................................................................................................................. 13

         I. The Agency Shop Violates Appellants' First Amendment Rights. . ............ 13

         II. The Opt-Out Regime Violates Appellants' First Amendment Rights. . ....... 20

         Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 23

         Addendum of Pertinent Authorities

         TABLE OF AUTHORITIES

         Page

         Cases

         Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U.S. 209 (1977) ..................................................................................... passim

         Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203 (1997) .......................................................................................... 3, 4

         Chi. Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292 (1986) .............................................................................................. 7

         Coll. Sav. Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666 (1999) ............................................................................................ 21

         Davenport v. Wash. Educ. Ass'n, 551 U.S. 177 (2007) .................................................................................. 8, 21, 22

         Ellis v. Bhd. of Ry., Airline & S.S. Clerks, Freight Handlers, Exp. & Station Emps., 466 U.S. 435 (1984) ......................... 16

         Harris v. Quinn, No. 11-681 ( S.Ct. June 30, 2014) ............................................................... passim

         Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2277 (2012) ................................................................ passim

         Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Ass'n, 500 U.S. 507 (1991) ...................................................................................... 15, 17

         Lyon v. Chase Bank USA, N.A., 656 F.3d 877 (9th Cir. 2011) .............................................................................. 13

         Mitchell v. L.A. Unified Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d 258 (9th Cir. 1992) ................................................................................ 3

         Pickering v. Bd. of Ed. of Twp. High Sch. Dist. 205, Will Cnty., Ill., 391 U.S. 563 (1968) ............................................................................................ 13

         South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301 (1966) ............................................................................................ 22

         Vergara v. California, No. BC 484642, slip op. (Cal. Sup. Ct. June 10, 2014) ...................................... 16

         TABLE OF AUTHORITIES (cont.)

         Page

         Statutes & Regulations

         28 U.S.C. § 1291 ........................................................................................................ 4

         28 U.S.C. § 1331 ........................................................................................................ 4

         28 U.S.C. § 1343 ........................................................................................................ 4

         Cal. Educ. Code § 35160 ....................................................................................... 15

         Cal. Educ. Code § 44929.21 .................................................................................. 14

         Cal. Educ. Code § 44934 ....................................................................................... 14

         Cal. Educ. Code § 44938 ....................................................................................... 14

         Cal. Educ. Code § 44944 ....................................................................................... 14

         Cal. Educ. Code § 44955 ....................................................................................... 14

         Cal. Educ. Code § 45060 ......................................................................................... 7

         Cal. Educ. Code § 45061 ......................................................................................... 8

         Cal. Educ. Code § 45061.5 ...................................................................................... 8

         Cal. Educ. Code § 45168 ......................................................................................... 8

         Cal. Gov't Code § 3540.1 ....................................................................................... 5

         Cal. Gov't Code § 3543.1 ................................................................................... 5, 7

         Cal. Gov't Code § 3543.2 ................................................................................. 14, 5

         Cal. Gov't Code § 3544 .......................................................................................... 5

         Cal. Gov't Code § 3544.1 ....................................................................................... 5

         Cal. Gov't Code § 3546 ................................................................................... 5, 6, 7

         Cal. Gov't Code § 3546.3 .................................................................................. 8, 18

         Regs. of Cal. P.E.R.B. § 32992 ........................................................................ 5, 6, 7

         Regs. of Cal. P.E.R.B. § 32993 ................................................................................ 7

         Regs. of Cal. P.E.R.B. § 32994 ................................................................................ 7

         STATEMENT WITH RESPECT TO ORAL ARGUMENT

         Appellants respectfully submit that oral argument is not warranted. The dispositive issues in this case are currently resolved by binding decisions of the Supreme Court and a prior panel of this Court, and so the proper result is-at this stage in the proceedings-clear. Oral argument therefore will not assist the Court in addressing the issues presented, and judicial economy is best served by deciding the case without oral argument.

         INTRODUCTION

         California law empowers school districts and public-teachers unions to form "agency shop" arrangements under which teachers, as a condition of employment, must fund all union expenditures supposedly germane to collective-bargaining. Under this law, it does not matter that public-sector collective-bargaining-which involves negotiating with public officials over often-controversial education policies and the expenditure of limited tax dollars-is core political expression, nor does it matter that many non-union teachers disagree with the unions' political expression. California law also allows unions to take an additional amount from nonmembers to fund union political activities that are entirely unrelated to collective-bargaining, unless each nonmember affirmatively registers his dissent every year-no matter how many times that nonmember has previously exercised his established First Amendment right to not fund such activities.

         Although both of these practices-the agency shop and the opt-out regime- have previously been upheld by this Court and the Supreme Court, they are at war with basic First Amendment values. The Supreme Court recognized as much in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, explaining that "[b]y authorizing a union to collect fees from nonmembers and permitting the use of an opt-out system for the collection of fees levied to cover nonchargeable expenses, our prior decisions approach, if they do not cross, the limit of what the First Amendment can tolerate." ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2277, 2291 (2012). And the Court cast even more doubt onto the constitutionality of the public-sector agency shop just yesterday in Harris v. Quinn, explaining that its past precedent allowing such arrangements "is questionable on several grounds, " and relies on a number of "evident and troubling" errors. No. 11-681, slip op. at 17 ( S.Ct. June 30, 2014).

         Appellants, non-union California teachers who are subject to the agency shop and the opt-out regime, filed this suit to vindicate the First Amendment principles addressed in Harris and Knox. Appellants recognize, however, that despite casting a great deal of doubt onto the constitutional validity of both practices, those decisions did not actually reach the question whether either practice can survive constitutional scrutiny. Accordingly, the agency shop and the opt-out regime both currently remain permissible under precedent that is binding on this panel. See Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U.S. 209, 232 (1977) (allowing public-sector agency shop); Mitchell v. L.A. Unified Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d 258, 263 (9th Cir. 1992) (allowing opt-out regime). Though there is good reason to believe that the Supreme Court will revisit these issues, this Court cannot do so on its own. See, e.g., Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203, 237 (1997) ("[I]f a precedent of this Court has direct application in a case, yet appears to rest on reasons rejected in some other line of decisions, the Court of Appeals should follow the case which directly controls, leaving to this Court the prerogative of overruling its own decisions.").

         It is thus Appellants' intention to pursue their claims before the Supreme Court. Because this Court's authority to grant that relief is foreclosed by binding precedent, Appellants respectfully request that the Court affirm the district court's entry of judgment on the pleadings in favor of Appellees (public-teachers unions and public-school superintendents) as quickly as practicable and without argument, so that Appellants can expeditiously take their claims to the Supreme Court. In order to preserve Appellants' arguments for further review, however, this Brief explains why Abood and Mitchell "rest on reasons rejected in some other lines of decisions." Id.

         JURISDICTIONAL STATEMENT

         This case raises claims under the United States Constitution, and so the district court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. The district court granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of Appellees, thereby disposing of all parties' claims, on December 5, 2013. ER4. Judgment was entered on December 6, and Appellants filed a timely notice of appeal on December 12. ER5, ER261; Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(A). This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

         ISSUES PRESENTED

         1. Under the authority of California law, Appellees (public-employee unions and public-school superintendents) require Appellants (non-union teachers) to pay an "agency fee" to their respective unions that funds all expenses the unions deem germane to their function as exclusive collective-bargaining representative, even though Appellants have declined to join the unions and object to the policies they bargain for. Does this agency-fee requirement violate the First Amendment?

         2. Also under California law, there is a presumption that Appellants intend to pay an increased fee supporting union expenditures that are unrelated to collective-bargaining, unless Appellants affirmatively renew their opposition to doing so every year. Does this opt-out requirement violate the First Amendment?

         PERTINENT AUTHORITIES

         Pertinent statutes and regulations are set forth in an Addendum to this brief.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         I. Factual Background

         A. California's Agency-Shop Law for Public-School Teachers

         The Agency Shop.

         Under California law, a union becomes the exclusive bargaining representative for "public school employees" in a bargaining unit (typically a school district) by submitting proof that it has the support of a majority of employees in the unit. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 3544, 3544.1 (hereinafter "Gov't"). A "public school employee" is anyone "employed by a public school employer, " except for elected or appointed officials and certain employees in management. Id. § 3540.1(j). Once a union becomes the exclusive representative, it represents all public-school employees in the unit for purposes of bargaining with the district. Id. § 3543.1(a). And the union is authorized to bargain over a wide range of "terms and conditions of employment" that go to the heart of education policy, including wages, hours, health and welfare benefits, leave, transfer and reassignment policies, class size, and procedures to be used for evaluating employees and processing grievances. Id. § 3543.2(a).

         California law also authorizes districts and unions to negotiate arrangements under which all teachers-"as a condition of continued employment"-must "either [] join the recognized [union] or pay the fair share service fee" (or "agency fee") to that union. Id. § 3546(a).[1] The amount of this fee is determined by the union, and "shall not exceed the dues that are payable by members" of the union. Id. (In practice, the fee typically equals the amount of union dues. ER17-18.) The agency fee's stated purpose is to support union activities that are "germane to [the union's] functions as the exclusive bargaining representative." Gov't § 3546(a). And California law expressly states that these functions include lobbying the government "to foster collective-bargaining negotiations and contract administration, or to secure for the represented employees advantages in wages, hours, and other conditions of employment in addition to those secured through meeting and negotiating with the employer." Id. § 3546(b).

         Although non-union employees are required to pay fees to support union activities that are "germane" to collective-bargaining, the First Amendment has long forbade compelling them to support union activities that are "not devoted to the costs of negotiations, contract administration, and other activities of the employee organization that are germane to its function as the exclusive bargaining representative." Id. § 3546(a) (emphasis added); see generally Abood, 431 U.S. at 235-36. It is the union's responsibility to annually determine the "non-chargeable" portion of its expenses. The union makes this determination by first calculating the total agency fee based on its expenses for the coming year, and then calculating the non-chargeable portion of the fee based on an audited financial report of a recent year's expenses. Regs. § 32992(b)(1).

         Hudson Notices and the Opt-Out Requirement.

         Each fall, after a union makes the requisite determinations, it must send a "Hudson notice" to all nonmembers that sets forth the total agency fee, the percentage that is chargeable, and "the basis for this calculation." Id. § 32992(a).[2] The Hudson notice must also include either the union's audited financial report for the year or an auditor's certification that the union has correctly reproduced the summary of chargeable and non-chargeable expenses. Id. § 32992(b)(1). The auditor does not, however, confirm that the union has properly classified expenses as chargeable or non-chargeable. Harris, slip op. at 19 (explaining as much).

         After receiving the Hudson notice, a nonmember who does not want to support the union's non-chargeable expenditures is required to affirmatively opt out by notifying the union of his objection. Regs. § 32993(a). Unions must allow at least 30 days for lodging objections (id. § 32993(b)), and typically provide no more than six weeks (ER20). A nonmember must renew his objection annually, no matter how many times he has opted out previously. Teachers who successfully opt out are then entitled to a "rebate" or "fee reduction" for that year. Gov't § 3546(a). But if a nonmember fails to opt out by the deadline, he must pay the full agency fee, including the non-chargeable portion.[3]

         California school districts are permitted to automatically deduct union dues and agency fees from employees' paychecks, and to transfer those funds to the appropriate union. Gov't §§ 3546(a), 3543.1(d); Cal. Educ. Code §§ 45060, 45061, 45061.5, 45168 (hereinafter "Educ."). Alternatively, ...


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