City of Boston Victory: Court Vacates Arbitration Award

On May 26, 2009, Morgan, Brown & Joy secured summary judgment for its client, vacating an arbitration award in a work-jurisdiction dispute.  In City of Boston v. Salaried Employees of North America, No. 08-3587-E, MBJ, on behalf of the City of Boston, sought to vacate an arbitrator’s award as being contrary to law and beyond the proper exercise of his authority.

The question before the arbitrator was whether the City of Boston has a non-delegable managerial right to assign attorneys to represent it, regardless of union affiliation.  Through his award, the arbitrator ruled that only attorneys who were members of a particular city union could represent the City in code enforcement prosecutions in the housing and district courts.

In seeking to vacate the arbitrator’s award before the Suffolk Superior Court, the City argued that the decision to assign lawyers to various duties was a non-delegable right and that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by limiting the City’s ability to assign work to certain non-union lawyers.  The City further contended that Massachusetts’ strong public policy favored the right of a client, such as the City, to freely choose its own lawyer, and that the arbitrator impermissibly infringed upon that right.  Finally, the City asserted that the arbitrator’s award was also contrary to the plain language of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, which preserved the City’s right to subcontract work out of the bargaining unit.

The Court sided with MBJ and the City, granting summary judgment and vacating the arbitration award.

David M. Connelly represented the City of Boston throughout the appeal in Suffolk Superior Court.