Although Tenney reflects this Court's sensitivity to interference with the functioning of state legislators, we do not read that opinion as broadly as Gillock would have us. First, Tenney was a civil action brought by a private plaintiff to vindicate private rights. Moreover, the cases in this Court which have recognized an immunity from civil suit for state officials have presumed the existence of federal criminal liability as a restraining factor on the conduct of state officials. As recently as O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488 (1974), we stated:
See Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 372-375; Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 239 n. 4; Developments in the Law — Section 1983 and Federalism, 90 Harv. L. Rev. 1133, 1200 (1977) (legislative immunity "enjoys a unique historical position").
In perhaps the earliest American case to consider the import of the legislative privilege, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, interpreting a provision of the Massachusetts Constitution granting the rights of freedom of speech and debate to state legislators, recognized that "the privilege secured by it is not so much the privilege of the house as an organized body, as of each individual member composing it, who is entitled to this privilege, even against the declared will of the house. For he does not hold this privilege at the pleasure of the house; but derives it from the will of the people . . . ." Coffin v. Coffin, 4 Mass. 1, 27 (1808). This theme underlies our cases interpreting the Speech or Debate Clause and the federal common law of legislative immunity, where we have emphasized that any restriction on a legislator's freedom undermines the "public good" by interfering with the rights of the people to representation in the democratic process. Lake Country Estates, supra, at 404-405; Tenney, supra, at 377. The District Court was quite sensitive to this fact; it observed:
The decision in Tenney established that § 1983 is to be read in harmony with general principles of tort immunities and defenses rather than in derogation of them. Before today the Court has had occasion to consider the liability of several types of government officials in addition to legislators. The common-law absolute immunity of judges for "acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction," see Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335 (1872), was found to be preserved under § 1983 in Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554-555 (1967). In the same case, local police officers sued for a deprivation of liberty resulting from unlawful arrest were held to enjoy under § 1983 a "good faith and probable cause" defense co-extensive with their defense to false arrest actions at common law. 386 U.S., at 555-557. We found qualified immunities appropriate in two recent cases. In Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232 (1974), we concluded that the Governor and other executive officials of a State had a qualified immunity that varied with "the scope of discretion and responsibilities of the office and all the circumstances as they reasonably appeared at the time of the action. . . ." Id., at 247. Last…
Recognizing this venerable tradition, we have held that state and regional legislators are entitled to absolute immunity from liability under § 1983 for their legislative activities. See Tenney, supra (state legislators); Lake Country Estates, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 440 U.S. 391 (1979) (regional legislators); see also Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168, 202-204 (1881) (interpreting the federal Speech and Debate Clause, U.S. Const., Art. I, § 6, to provide similar immunity to Members of Congress). We explained that legislators were entitled to absolute immunity from suit at common law and that Congress did not intend the general language of § 1983 to "impinge on a tradition so well grounded in history and reason." Tenney, supra, at 376. Because the common law accorded local legislators the same absolute immunity it accorded legislators at other levels of government, and because the rationales for such immunity are fully applicable to local legislators, we now hold that local legislators are likewise absolutely immune from suit under § 1983 for their legislative activities.
As a consequence, in this Circuit, in particular, as well as in the other Circuits which follow Tenney, the only class of workers included within the exception to the FAA's mandatory arbitration provision are those employed directly in the channels of commerce itself. Peacock does not fall within this classification. Accordingly, the district court did not err in compelling arbitration by holding that the mandatory arbitration provision of the FAA applied to Peacock's employment agreement.
To determine whether Palcko's employment contract, including the arbitration agreement, is exempt from the FAA's coverage, we must therefore determine whether Palcko can be considered to be a "transportation worker" in a "class of workers . . . engaged in . . . commerce" within the meaning of the FAA, as interpreted by Circuit City. The District Court, citing our decision in Tenney Engineering, Inc. v. United Electrical Radio Machine Workers of America, 207 F.2d 450, 452 (3d Cir. 1953), reasoned that Palcko qualifies as a transportation worker because her job "was so closely related [to the transport of the goods] as to be in practical effect part of [the shipping of the goods]." App. at 17 (internal quotations omitted). Airborne challenges the court's finding, arguing that Palcko, as a "management employee" with no close contact with channels of interstate commerce and not subject to other existing statutory employment dispute resolution schemes, cannot qualify as an exempt worker under section 1 of the FAA. Appellant's Br. at 27-36.
We have already decided that the Speech or Debate Clause immunizes Congressmen from suits for either prospective relief or damages. Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, 421 U.S. 491, 502-503 (1975). The purpose of this immunity is to insure that the legislative function may be performed independently without fear of outside interference. Ibid. To preserve legislative independence, we have concluded that "legislators engaged `in the sphere of legitimate legislative activity,' Tenney v. Brandhove, [ 341 U.S. 367, 376 (1951)], should be protected not only from the consequences of litigation's results but also from the burden of defending themselves." Dombrowski v. Eastland, 387 U.S. 82, 85 (1967).
Because the question of the scope of a municipality's immunity from liability under § 1983 is essentially one of statutory construction, see Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 314, 316 (1975); Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 376 (1951), the starting point in our analysis must be the language of the statute itself. Andrus v. Allard, 444 U.S. 51, 56 (1979); Blue Chip Stamps v. Manor Drug Stores, 421 U.S. 723, 756 (1975) (POWELL, J., concurring). By its terms, § 1983 "creates a species of tort liability that on its face admits of no immunities." Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 417 (1976). Its language is absolute and unqualified; no mention is made of any privileges, immunities, or defenses that may be asserted. Rather, the Act imposes liability upon "every person" who, under color of state law or custom, "subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws." And Monell held that these words were intended to encompass municipal corporations as well as natural "persons."
We have not heretofore addressed the question whether section 1 of the FAA should be interpreted broadly or narrowly. We are persuaded by the reasoning of those circuits which have held that section 1 applies only to contracts of employment for those classes of employees that are engaged directly in the movement of interstate commerce. See Great Western Mortgage Corp. v. Peacock, No. 96-5273, 1997 WL 153012 at *4 (3d Cir. Apr. 3, 1997) (reaffirming Tenney Engineering, Inc. v. United Elec. Radio Mach. Workers of Amer., Local 437, 207 F.2d 450, 452 (3d Cir. 1953) (en banc)); Cole v. Burns Int'l Sec. Servs., 105 F.3d 1465, 1472 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Rojas v. TK Communications, Inc., 87 F.3d 745, 748 (5th Cir. 1996); Asplundh Tree Expert Co. v. Bates, 71 F.3d 592, 600-601 (6th Cir. 1995); Miller Brewing Co. v. Brewery Workers Local Union No. 9, AFL-CIO, 739 F.2d 1159, 1162 (7th Cir. 1984); Erving v. Virginia Squires Basketball Club, 468 F.2d 1064, 1069 (2d Cir. 1972); Dickstein v. duPont, 443 F.2d 783, 785 (1st Cir. 1971). Only the Fourth Circuit has interpreted section 1 broadly. See United Elec. Radio Machine Workers of Amer. v. Miller Metal Prods., 215 F.2d 221, 224 (4th…