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Delaware Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO v. University of Delaware

Superior Court of Delaware, Sussex

February 20, 2015

DELAWARE BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE and 1743 HOLDINGS, Defendants.

Submitted: November 10, 2015.

Upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment For Alleged Lack of Justiciability. Denied.

Upon Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment For Alleged Lack of Justiciability. Granted.

Richard L. Abbott, Esquire, Abbott Law Firm, Attorney for Plaintiff.

William E. Manning, Esquire, James D. Taylor, Jr., Esqure, Whitney W. Deeney, Esquire, Saul Ewing LLP, Attorney for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Richard F. Stokes, Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff in this matter filed a declaratory judgment claim in which a determination as to whether the Defendants are subject to 29 Del. C. § 6960 (the "Prevailing Wage Law") was sought. Ultimately, Plaintiff seeks judicial relief resulting in entry of an order declaring Defendants subject to all of the provisions of the Prevailing Wage Law based on the contention Defendants are subdivisions of the State of Delaware. This Letter Opinion will only address whether this Court may properly entertain this declaratory judgement action and exercise jurisdiction over this matter. For the reasons which follow, I conclude this matter is justiciable because Plaintiff presents an actual controversy between real adverse interests that is ripe for judicial adjudication. Oral argument will be scheduled to consider whether or not defendants are exempt from coverage.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE

Plaintiff, Delaware Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, is an unincorporated association that represents various laborers including but not limited to brick layers, cement masons, iron workers, plumbers, pipe fitters, sheet metal workers, and roofers.[1] Defendants, the University of Delaware (the "University") and 1743 Holdings, LLC ("1743"), are collectively an educational organization.[2] Defendants' educational organization is structured such that it is comprised of an entity initially chartered by the General Assembly in 1743–the University–and a limited liability company–1743–that is wholly owned by the University.[3]

On September 20, 2012, Plaintiff initiated this action in Chancery Court alleging the Defendants are a subdivision of the State of Delaware and thus subject to 29 Del. C. § 6960 (the "Prevailing Wage Law") when utilizing state funds on improvement projects.[4] Plaintiff sought a declaration and a permanent injunction to that effect.[5] The Chancery Court concluded there was not a sufficient basis to exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the claim.[6]

With the loss of equitable jurisdiction, [7] this matter was transferred to the Superior Court pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 1902.[8] On July 22, 2014, the Defendants submitted their opening brief in support of their motion for summary judgment;[9] in response Plaintiff cross-moved on August 5, 2014.[10] Oral argument on the above-mentioned cross-motions for summary judgment was held on October 28, 2014.[11]During oral argument, counsel for Plaintiff argued this Court had discretion to exercise jurisdiction.[12] Further, Plaintiff maintains this matter presents a genuine and actual controversy ripe for a judicial determination.[13] Counsel for Defendants dispute these contentions and seek to summarily dismiss this matter.[14] After reviewing the submissions and arguments set forth by both parties, I conclude this matter is justiciable.

STANDARD OF REVIEW FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF

Delaware's Declaratory Judgement Act[15] enables parties to secure comprehensive and expeditious judicial relief.[16] As a remedial statute, Delaware's Declaratory Judgment Act (the "Act") is to be liberally construed.[17] The Act "afford[s] relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to rights, status, and other legal relations."[18] Declaratory relief "enable[s] Courts to adjudicate a controversy prior to the time when a remedy is traditionally available."[19] On the ...


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