Federal Trade Commission v. Standard Oil Company of California

PETITIONER: Federal Trade Commission
RESPONDENT: Standard Oil Company of California
LOCATION: New York State Thruway

DOCKET NO.: 79-900
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 449 US 232 (1980)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1980
DECIDED: Dec 15, 1980

ADVOCATES:
George A. Sears - on behalf of the Respondent
Wade H. McCree, Jr. - on behalf of the respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Federal Trade Commission v. Standard Oil Company of California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1980 in Federal Trade Commission v. Standard Oil Company of California

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 15, 1980 in Federal Trade Commission v. Standard Oil Company of California

Warren E. Burger:

Number 79-900, Federal Trade Commission against Standard Oil of California and Number 79-939, Delaware State College against Ricks will each be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

In the first of these cases, the Federal Trade Commission against Standard Oil of California, the case is here from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

It presents an administrative law question of some importance.

In 1973, the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against eight oil companies including the respondent, the Standard Oil of California, charging violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Respondent is sued in the Federal District Court alleging that the Commission had issued its complaint without having reason to believe that violations had occurred.

The season to believe a statutory term is a prerequisite to the Commission's authority to issue complaints.

The District Court dismissed respondent's complaint but the Court of Appeals disagreed.

It held that the District Court should have inquired whether in fact a sufficient investigation had been made.

In our view, the Commission's issuance of its complaint is not final agency action under Section 10 (c) of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The mere issuance is not a definitive ruling and it had no legal or practical effect on respondent other than the expense and disruption that attends any major litigation in the absence of final agency action, the issuance of the complaint is not judicially reviewable before administrative adjudication is concluded.

We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Stevens, while concurring into judgment has filed a separate opinion.

In the second of these cases -- oh, I should have announced that Mr. Justice Stewart took no part in the consideration or decision of the case that I have just announced.