A judge with some sense! Why did the DOL take this position anyway? Somebody there needs an education on ex offenders!
Excerpts from the Article:
A federal judge in Boston has ruled that a man convicted of drug trafficking has rehabilitated and should be able to serve as a union steward, contrary to the U.S. Department of Labor’s “remarkable and troubling” position.
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani on Wednesday said Brian Hatch, who spent four years in prison and another five years on parole, had demonstrated that he is now a law-abiding citizen who can be trusted not to endanger an International Brotherhood of Teamsters local that represents him and other employees at energy company Global Companies LLC.
Talwani rejected DOL’s claim that despite his apparent rehabilitation, Hatch could not be trusted to serve in the union because he had kept in touch with two other convicted criminals.
“The court finds the DOL’s position both remarkable and troubling,” the judge wrote. “Rehabilitation of individuals with criminal convictions will never occur if law-abiding citizens may not communicate with them.”
Michael Feinberg of Feinberg Dumont & Brennan, who represents Hatch, said Talwani appeared frustrated at the amount of time and effort DOL spent to prevent Hatch from serving as a steward.
“Hopefully, Judge Talwani’s (decision) will cause the DOL to reconsider its seemingly reflexive response to oppose petitions for exemptions” from the typical 13-year bar on convicted criminals serving in union roles, Feinberg said.
The federal Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA) prohibits individuals convicted of certain crimes, including “violation of narcotics laws,” from serving as officers, organizers, employees, or representatives of any labor union for at least 13 years after a conviction or the end of a prison sentence. Those restrictions end early upon the restoration of an individual’s rights to vote, hold elective office, and sit on a jury.
And a federal judge may grant an exemption upon determining that an individual has rehabilitated and their service in a union would not be contrary to the LMRDA.
Hatch in 2009 pleaded guilty to trafficking of a controlled substance, a felony, and a misdemeanor drug conspiracy offense, according to court filings. He was released from prison in 2013 and completed his parole in 2018. Under Massachusetts law, Hatch’s rights to vote and hold public office were restored upon his release from prison. But his right to sit on a jury will not be restored until December 2025 – seven years after his discharge from parole.
Hatch last year filed a petition for an exemption from the LMRDA so that he could serve as a union steward at Global, where he has worked since 2014.
Hatch submitted numerous letters and character references from the police chief of his hometown, childhood friends and the president of the Teamsters local claiming he had rehabilitated and was highly unlikely to break the law again.
DOL acknowledged his rehabilitation but discounted the letters and references, saying their sources were mostly family friends. The agency also pointed to Hatch’s periodic communication with a co-defendant in his drug case and an individual currently incarcerated for racketeering conspiracy.
Talwani on Wednesday sided with Hatch. He had demonstrated his rehabilitation and successful reentry after imprisonment, and DOL’s flimsy evidence related to his communication with the two convicted criminals “shows no vulnerability to corrupting influences,” the judge wrote.
The case is Hatch v. U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, No. 1:20-cv-12072.