Hawaii judge fines sheet metal workers union over deposition

Michael P. Tremoglie Jan. 4, 2012, 12:00pm

HONOLULU (Legal Newsline) - A Hawaii federal judge has fined a sheet metal workers union, its principal officer and its attorney for violating the Court's earlier orders.

Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway previously had ordered the union's records custodian to appear for a deposition and produce documents in connection with a National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) investigation of the Union's hiring hall.

Mollway found that the conduct of Sheet Metal Workers International Association, Local 293, at the deposition was "tantamount to a failure to appear at the deposition or failure to answer questions."

She also found that the union's attorney "acted with knowledge and with more than recklessness in flouting the court's Oct. 3 order and in inducing Sheet Metal Workers to flout the order" and expressly found both the attorney and the union's custodian of records to have acted in bad faith.

According to the NLRB announcement, the court ordered a fine of $250 per day from October 18, 2011 and continuing until compliance; attorneys' fees and court reporter costs incurred by the NLRB due to the union's non-compliance, to be paid by the union's custodian of records and its attorney, personally; as well $2,500 against each personally.

Union officials are also required to appear for a further deposition no later than Jan. 13.

The court also ordered -- in what was termed an unusual requirement -- that during the deposition, any objection must be stated in 10 words or less and that any party stating an objection over 10 words would be sanctioned $100 per word (excepting only instructions not to answer a question based on attorney client privilege).

"The NLRB cannot do its job of investigating unfair labor practices without the cooperation of parties or, failing that, their obedience to lawful judicial orders to provide evidence," NLRB Regional Director Joe Frankl said. "We appreciate the court's patience with this unnecessarily protracted process and especially its willingness to impose 'strong medicine' to compel future compliance."

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