Crawford Fitting Company v. J. T. Gibbons, Inc.

PETITIONER: Crawford Fitting Company
RESPONDENT: J. T. Gibbons, Inc.
LOCATION: Harrison County Court

DOCKET NO.: 86-322
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 482 US 437 (1987)
ARGUED: Apr 29, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1987

ADVOCATES:
Ernest P. Mansour - on behalf of the petitioners in No. 86-322
Jeffrey A. Walker - on behalf of the petitioner in No. 86-328
James E. Youngdahl - on behalf of the respondent in No. 86-328
William H. Block - on behalf of the respondent in No. 86-322

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Crawford Fitting Company v. J. T. Gibbons, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1987 in Crawford Fitting Company v. J. T. Gibbons, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments next in two consolidated cases, No. 86-322, Crawford Fitting Company against Gibbons; and No. 86-328, Champion International Corporation against International Woodworkers of America.

Mr. Mansour, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Ernest P. Mansour:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

At the conclusion of a long and complicated antitrust case, and after a hearing, Judge Palmeiri, who rendered a decision in favor of the defendants, granted an application for court costs, which included a request for fees involving three experts who testified at the time of trial on behalf of the defendant, yes, Justice White.

The... Judge Palmieri approved those costs in two situations, He... Dr. Robers' fees were allowed, and Dr. Saving's fees were allowed.

He disallowed the fees of James Baldwin, a partner with the accounting firm of Ernst & Whinney.

The basis of the allowance of the fees were that these experts materially enabled the court to arrive at the decision the court ultimately arrived at, that is, that the merits of the complaint were meritless; that the circuit court adopted the opinions of these two experts; and that under 54(d) he had the discretion to allow the fees.

In an en banc opinion, the circuit court reversed.

The circuit court based that reversal on the Alyeska case.

The Alyeska case, as this Court is aware, involved attorneys' fees.

And basically what the circuit court did was, it said that attorneys' fees and expert fees are similar or the same, and the same rule ought to apply.

We suggest to the Court that there is a material distinction between attorneys' fees and experts' fees.

We suggest to the Court that the basis of granting experts' fees is entirely different than obviating the American rule on attorneys' fees.

Historically, the role of an expert was to assist the court and/or the trier of facts to arrive at an appropriate conclusion.

Historically, under our system of jurisprudence, the role of an attorney is to be an advocate on behalf of his client.

We suggest to this Court that those two roles are entirely different--

Byron R. White:

xxx statute?

Ernest P. Mansour:

--No, I think that the court of appeals said that the Alyeska case did not permit them to grant fees which did not... which were not in the statute, Your Honor.

And what they did was, they followed that district which decided that 1920 was exclusive, rather than those districts which have indicated that the adoption of 54(d) gave to the courts... or I would prefer to say, underscored to the courts... that discretion which the equity courts have always had historically.

Antonin Scalia:

Well, you could come to that conclusion whether or not you think it has anything to do with Alyeska.

I mean, you could come to that conclusion as a matter of statutory interpretation--

Ernest P. Mansour:

That's correct.

Antonin Scalia:

--whether you think Alyeska covers these things or not.

Ernest P. Mansour:

That's correct.

But what the en banc court did was, they took Alyeska... and I think that's a dangerous precedent, to say that attorneys' fees and expert fees are exactly the same.

I think from a historical standpoint that that's a dangerous precedent.

And I think that that's a misreading of the Alyeska case.

I think that there is a substantial difference between the districts involving Henkel and Farmer, for example.

If you read Henkel, Henkel was written prior to the merger of law and equity.

Henkel was written prior to the adoption of the rules of civil procedure.