Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie

PETITIONER: Federated Department Stores, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Moitie
LOCATION: CBS Broadcast Center

DOCKET NO.: 79-1517
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 452 US 394 (1981)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Jerome I. Chapman - on behalf of the Petitioners
Jerrold N. Offstein - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1981 in Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Federated Department Stores v. Moitie.

Mr. Chapman, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Jerome I. Chapman:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

The Petitioners are here to ask the Court to reverse a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which we believe is not only contrary to established principles but creates a very serious practical impediment on the ability of District Courts to coordinate and control multi-party complex litigations.

It is our submission that the decision of the Ninth Circuit out back on the normal rule of finality of judgments in the context of multiple-party, multiple action litigation which is exactly the opposite of what should have been done.

That is, in these classes of cases there is more rather than less need for adherence to res judicata and the rule of finality.

We would like to take a few moments to describe briefly the background of this case and how it comes to this Court.

And then to present what we consider the principal reasons why we believe that the Ninth Circuit decision is contrary to established principles of res judicata and out of step with the salutary trends in improving the abilities of the District Court to control and coordinate complex cases.

The present case.

Your Honor, started the same way as have hundreds of class action cases in the federal court.

It's a class action for treble damages and attorneys fees and other relief, following on the heels of a federal government action.

In April of 1976, the federal government obtained a misdemeanor indictment against Petitioners under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, charging that the Petitioners had agreed on the prices of women's clothings in their stores in Northern California.

Shortly thereafter, a multiplicity of private class actions were filed; there were seven in all, two of those were filed by the same counsel.

One of the actions, which was entitled Moitie v. Federated and Saks has been voluntarily dismissed by the Plaintiffs, and that action is not before this Court.

The other action is the Brown case, which is the only case that is before the Court this morning.

The complaint in the Brown case, as I say, was largely patterned on the government's pleadings.

It alleged that the Petitioners had agreed to charge certain prices in their stores on women's clothing and that the Plaintiffs and the class members that were purportedly represented had been injured by being overcharged on those purchases.

The one difference was that unlike the government action and the other six class actions, the Brown case alleged that the violations took place in Southern California, rather than in Northern California.

Now, the cases proceeded in the District Court before a... they were coordinated before a single judge and in July of 1976, the Petitioners moved to dismiss all seven cases for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).

There was extensive briefing on the motion, in fact, the District Court set aside one entire day for oral argument.

And in January of 1977, the District Court dismissed all seven cases.

There were several issues considered, but the primary ground that was relied upon in the District Court's dismissal was that the Plaintiffs and class members as retail purchasers did not allege an injury to their business or property which would entitle them to treble damage recovery under the Clayton Act, Section 4.

The parties in five of the other cases appealed, and we've referred to these for convenience in our brief, as the Weinberg cases.

The Weinberg cases all took an appeal from the dismissal of their actions to the Ninth Circuit.

However, Brown deliberately chose to break away from the other cases at this point, and did not appeal.

When the time for appeal had expired, the Respondent Brown filed a new action in the municipal court in Palo Alto-Mountain View judicial district, which was in all material respects absolutely identical to the prior case.

And we've referred to these again, for convenience, the prior dismissed action as Brown I; the second action, which is the action now before this Court as Brown II.

As I say, Brown I and Brown II were essentially identical, the same parties were involved, were alleged.

There were the same descriptions of trade and commerce, exactly the same offenses charged, the same alleged effects of the offenses were charged, the same time period was covered, the period up to April, 1974.

The same geographic area was covered in both complaints.