Wednesday, December 06, 2000 The online home of the Northwest Arkansas Times News Sports Editorial Classifieds Living Wednesday News Click here to submit community events. Business Matters What's Up! Circuit judge says court lacks jurisdiction over Fayetteville postmaster's lawsuit against union By NANCY VARVIL Staff Writer The Washington County Circuit Court has no jurisdiction over a Fayetteville postmaster's lawsuit against a local labor union, a Washington County judge said Tuesday. The judge dismissed that portion of the lawsuit and is expected to make a ruling soon about its jurisdiction over the remaining defendants in the case. Fayetteville Postmaster Linda Patrick brought a lawsuit against Local 667 of the American Postal Workers Union and 10 other defendants, including individuals and other labor unions, in Washington County Circuit Court on Sept. 8. Patrick alleges the defendants defamed her, intentionally interfered with her business relations, invaded her privacy and libeled her. The lawsuit refers to statements made in a letter and an e-mail, and in various meetings, conversations and interviews. She asked for $10,000 per defendant in punitive damages and $75,000 in compensatory damages, according to the lawsuit. Washington County Circuit Court Judge Kim Smith granted APWU attorney Charles Kester's motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the APWU local, ruling that the matter "clearly is a supervisor-and-employee dispute." He said the Arkansas Supreme Court has implied a preemption of this type of case that "leaves no room for courts to act [in these cases]." Smith also noted it as "very revealing" that no state courts have ever ruled in such cases. Kester had argued on behalf of APWU that the Postal Reorganization and Civil Service Reform acts provide the "exclusive remedy" for federal employees who have employer/employee relationship problems. Kester had also said that if the Circuit Court ruled on this case, it would be the "first court that allowed cases of this kind to proceed." "The floodgates will be open" for similar cases, Kester said, noting that the federal government employs many workers in Washington County. Patrick's attorney, R.V. Terry Funk, argued that the lawsuit did not involve personnel matters and thus belonged in court. "Linda Patrick is suing individuals and individual entities," but not in relation to personnel matters, Funk said, so her grievances shouldn't go through Civil Service Reform Act procedures. In addition, Patrick is not a member of a union, so she has no option of bringing a grievance through union procedures, he said. "Nowhere in the [Civil Service Reform Act] does it say you may not bring an action outside personnel or outside of a collective bargaining agreement," Funk had argued. Although attorneys for the other 10 defendants attended the hearing, the lawsuit is still pending against them, Smith said, because only APWU made the original motion to dismiss. He said he expects to rule on the court's jurisdiction over the other defendants soon. "I thought we'd get it all resolved today," Kester said after the ruling. "I'll be shocked if it's not the same result with everybody else." Patrick was Fayetteville postmaster from November 1996 through October 1998 and resumed the Fayetteville position in December1999 after a stint as postmaster in Rogers. She had brought two similar lawsuits in federal courts in 1999, and both were dismissed. Patrick has appealed the decision to dismiss one of the lawsuits. Patrick had no comment on today's dismissal. Business Matters Return to 2000. All information contained on this website is the property of Community Publishers.