Diamond v. Pennsylvania State Education Association, No. 19-2812 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In reliance on a Pennsylvania statute and the Supreme Court’s 1977 “Abood” decision, the unions collected “fair-share fees” from the plaintiffs over the plaintiffs’ objections. The plaintiffs did not join the unions but were represented by the unions, which served as the exclusive bargaining agents for their bargaining units. In 2018, the Supreme Court overruled Abood in Janus v. AFSCME, holding that state legislation condoning public-sector fair-share fees was unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs filed 42 U.S.C. 1983 lawsuits seeking reimbursement of the sums they were required to pay. The district courts, joining a consensus of federal courts across the country, dismissed the claims for monetary relief, ruling that because the unions collected the fair-share fees in good faith reliance on a governing state statute and Supreme Court precedent, they are entitled to, and have successfully made out, a good faith defense to monetary liability under section 1983. The Third Circuit affirmed. The good faith defense to section 1983 liability is “narrow” and “only rarely will a party successfully claim to have relied substantially and in good faith on both a state statute and unambiguous Supreme Court precedent validating that statute.”