Golden State Transit Corp v. City of Los Angeles

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Golden State Transit Corp v. City of Los Angeles by John Paul Stevens
Court Documents
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

493 U.S. 103

Golden State Transit Corp  v.  City of Los Angeles

No. 88-840  Argued: Oct. 3, 1989. --- Decided: Dec 5, 1989


After this Court held that respondent city had violated federal law by conditioning the renewal of petitioner's taxicab franchise on settlement of a pending labor dispute between petitioner and its union, Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles, 475 U.S. 608, 106 S.Ct. 1395, 89 L.Ed.2d 616 (Golden State I ), the District Court enjoined the city to reinstate the franchise. However, the court concluded that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 did not authorize a compensatory damages award, since the Supremacy Clause does not create individual rights that may be vindicated in an action for damages under § 1983; and since, even though the city's conduct was pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) under Golden State I, there had been no "direct violation" of the statute, and the Act's comprehensive enforcement scheme precluded resort to § 1983. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Petitioner is entitled to maintain a § 1983 action for compensatory damages. Pp. 105-113.

(a) The Supremacy Clause, of its own force, does not create rights enforceable under § 1983. The Clause "is not a source of any federal rights"; rather, it " 'secure[s]' federal rights by according them priority whenever they come in conflict with state law." Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, 441 U.S. 600, 613, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 1913, 60 L.Ed.2d 508. Pp. 107-108.

(b) However, the NLRA grants petitioner rights enforceable under § 1983. A § 1983 remedy is not precluded by the existence of a comprehensive enforcement scheme, since the NLRA provides no mechanism to address state interference with federally protected labor rights. Moreover, the city's argument that its conduct did not violate any rights secured by the NLRA is rejected, since petitioner is the intended beneficiary of a statutory scheme that gives parties to a collective-bargaining agreement the right to make use of "economic weapons," not expressly set forth in the NLRA, free of federal or state governmental interference. Machinists v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm'n, 427 U.S. 132, 150, 96 S.Ct. 2548, 2558, 49 L.Ed.2d 396. The violation of a federal right that is implicit in a statute's language and structure is as much a "direct violation" of a right as is the violation that is clearly set forth in the text of the statute. Pp. 108-112.

857 F.2d 631 (CA9 1988); reversed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 113.

Zachary D. Fasman, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

John F. Haggerty, Los Angeles, Cal., for respondent.

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).