Community Communications Company, Inc. v. City of Boulder

PETITIONER: Community Communications Company, Inc.
RESPONDENT: City of Boulder
LOCATION: Island Trees School District

DOCKET NO.: 80-1350
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 455 US 40 (1982)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1981
DECIDED: Jan 13, 1982

Harold R. Farrow - on behalf of Petitioner
Jeffrey H. Howard - on behalf of the Respondents
Thomas P. Mc Mahon - amicus curiae

Facts of the case


Media for Community Communications Company, Inc. v. City of Boulder

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1981 in Community Communications Company, Inc. v. City of Boulder

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 13, 1982 in Community Communications Company, Inc. v. City of Boulder

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

The other opinion I have to announce is No. 80-1350, Community Communications versus the City of Boulder, Colorado.

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Back in 1943, the Court decided a case styled Parker versus Brown which held that a federal -- that the federal antitrust laws did not prohibit a State in the exercise of its sovereign powers from imposing certain anticompetitive restraints.

Respondent, City of Boulder, Colorado is organized as a so-called home rule city under the Colorado Constitution.

That Constitution grants Boulder extensive powers of self-government in local and municipal matters, indeed every power theretofore possessed by the state legislature in local and municipal affairs.

And pursuant to those powers, Boulder enacted an ordinance purporting to regulate the cable television business.

The ordinance has been challenged as violative of the Sherman antitrust laws.

The question presented is whether Boulder, as a home rule city, enjoys the state action exemption from Sherman Act liability announced in Parker v. Brown.

The District Court of the District of Colorado held that it did not.

The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, after noting that the city's regulation of the cable television business was the only control or act of supervision exercised by a state local government, and thus represented the only expression of policy on the subject matter, reversed the District the Court and held that the city's regulation satisfied the criteria for the Parker and Brown exemption.

Well, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

We hold that the Parker v. Brown exemption reflects the federalism principle that we are a nation of states, a principle that makes no accommodation or sovereign subdivisions of states.

As this Court said almost a century ago in the case called United States v. Kagama, all sovereign authority within the geographical limits of the United States resides either with and I quote from that opinion, "The Government of the United States or with the States of the Union.

There exist within the broad domain of sovereignty but these two.

There may be cities, counties, and other organized bodies with limited legislative functions, but they are all derived from, or exist in, subordination to one or the other of these."

Thus, the challenged anticompetitive regulation, if it is such and we don't decide whether it is or not, can enjoy the Parker exemption only if it constitutes the action of the State of Colorado itself in its sovereign capacity and it does not, or if it constitutes municipal action in furtherance or implementation of clearly articulated and affirmatively expressed state policy, and again, it does not.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals must therefore be and it is reversed.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist, joined by the Chief Justice and Justice O'Connor, dissents and has filed a dissenting opinion.

Justice White took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Brennan.