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U.S. Supreme Court

United Transp. Union v. State Bar of Michigan, 401 U.S. 576 (1971)

United Transportation Union v. State Bar of Michigan

No. 434

Argued January 20, 1971

Decided April 5, 1971

401 U.S. 576


Respondent brought this action to enjoin the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen (later merged into petitioner) from engaging in group legal activity for the stated purpose of assisting workers in filing damage suits under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA). Respondent charged that the Union had recommended to its Michigan members selected Chicago attorneys whose fees would not exceed 25% of the amount recovered. The Union's answer admitted, inter alia, that it had engaged in the practice of protecting its members against large fees and incompetent counsel and that Union members were reimbursed for transporting injured members to the legal counsel's offices. On the basis of the pleadings and one witness' testimony that a large number of Michigan FELA claimants were represented by the Union's Chicago counsel, the trial court issued an injunction. While that decision was on appeal, this Court decided Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Virginia State Bar, 377 U. S. 1, and the Michigan Supreme Court thereafter remanded the case to the trial court for further consideration. Following respondent's motion for judgment, that court, adopting the decree entered against the Union in Trainmen after this Court's remand, enjoined the Union from "giving or furnishing legal advice to its members or their families"; furnishing attorneys the names of injured members or information relating to their injuries; accepting compensation for the solicitation of legal employment for any lawyer; and from controlling the lawyer's fees. The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed.

Held: The injunction issued against the Union in this case violated its right under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to engage in group activity to enable its members to meet the costs of legal representation and otherwise to secure meaningful access to the courts, Trainmen, supra; United Mine Worker v. Illinois State Bar Assn., 389 U. S. 217; NAACP v. Button, 371 U. S. 415. Pp. 401 U. S. 579-586.

383 Mich. 201, 174 N.W.2d 811, reversed.

BLACK, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. HARLAN, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 401 U. S. 577

J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 401 U. S. 586. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 401 U. S. 600. STEWART, J., took no part in the decision of the case.

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