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Lightner v. 1621 Route 22 West Operating Company, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

September 4, 2013

J. MICHAEL LIGHTNER, Regional Director of Region 22 of the National Labor Relations Board for and on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board Appellant in No. 12-2726
v.
1621 ROUTE 22 WEST OPERATING COMPANY, LLC D/B/A/ Somerset Valley Rehabilitation and Nursing Center Appellant in No. 12-2122

Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) October 12, 2012

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Civil Action Nos. 3-11-cv-02007, 3-11-cv-03960 & 3-11-cv-04072) District Judge: Honorable Mary L. Cooper

Elinor L. Merberg, Esquire Dexter E. Sutton, Sr., Esquire Laura T. Vazquez, Esquire National Labor Relations Board, Saulo Santiago, Esquire Michael P. Silverstein, Esquire National Labor Relations Board Counsel for Appellant /Cross-Appellee.

Rosemary Alito, Esquire George P. Barbatsuly, Esquire K&L Gates One Newark Center, Counsel for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Ellen Dichner, Esquire William S. Massey, Esquire Gladstein, Reif & Meginniss Amicus Counsel for Appellee.

Before: AMBRO, SMITH and CHAGARES, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

AMBRO, Circuit Judge.

I.

In 2010 Appellee/Cross-Appellant J. Michael Lightner, the Regional Director of Region 22 of the National Labor Relations Board (the "NLRB" or "Board"), brought charges of unfair labor practices before the NLRB against Appellant/Cross-Appellee 1621 Route 22 West Operating Co., LLC, d/b/a Somerset Valley Rehabilitation and Nursing Center ("Somerset Valley"). While administrative proceedings were pending on that complaint, the Board brought a petition in federal court under § 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act ("the Act" or "NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 160(j), seeking temporary injunctive relief to prevent Somerset Valley from engaging in behavior that violates the Act and to reinstate certain employees.

After discovery and eight days of hearings, the District Court filed a 129-page opinion coupled with an order granting in part and denying in part the Board's petition. In that comprehensive and well-crafted opinion, the Court enjoined Somerset Valley from interfering with its employees associating with the labor union, and required the reinstatement of two discharged employees. The Court refused to order Somerset Valley to reinstate two other employees or to order the rescission of notices of discipline filed against certain employees.

Somerset Valley appealed the parts of the order enjoining it and requiring it to reinstate the employees, and the Board filed a cross-appeal challenging the Court's refusal to order reinstatement of the discharged employees not reinstated. Those appeals were consolidated before us. Before the merits of the cross-appeals were fully briefed, the Board issued a decision and order in the administrative action that rendered moot the temporary injunctive relief order by the District Court. The Board then filed this motion to dismiss the cross-appeals and to instruct the District Court to vacate its opinion and order. Somerset Valley agrees that the appeals are moot and should be dismissed, but opposes vacatur.

II.

The District Court had jurisdiction under 29 U.S.C. § 160(j). We have appellate jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

The purpose of NLRA § 10(j) is to preserve the Board's powers to decide violations of the Act "by giving the NLRB an opportunity to seek an injunction of alleged violations before an injury becomes permanent or the Board's remedial purpose becomes meaningless." Chester ex rel. NLRB v. Grane Healthcare Co., 666 F.3d 87, 96 (3d Cir. 2011). It gives a district court authority to enter temporary interim relief while retaining "the Board's exclusive authority to decide the merits of the case[]." Id. Because the Board has decided the merits of the complaint against Somerset Valley, we agree with the parties that the Board's pursuit of temporary relief is moot. Yet there remains the dispute whether the District Court's opinion should be vacated. Although the judgment has become moot, we retain the ...


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