Hawaii v. Standard Oil Company of California

RESPONDENT: Standard Oil Company of California
LOCATION: Stanford University

DOCKET NO.: 70-49
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 405 US 251 (1972)
ARGUED: Oct 21, 1971
DECIDED: Mar 01, 1972

Francis R. Kirkham - for respondents
Maxwell M. Blecher - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Hawaii v. Standard Oil Company of California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 21, 1971 in Hawaii v. Standard Oil Company of California

Warren E. Burger:

Number 49, Hawaii against Standard Oil Company.

Mr. Blecher, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Maxwell M. Blecher:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it may please the Court.

The basic issue presented by this appeal on a Writ of certiorari to the Ninth Circuit is whether the claim of a state parens patriae for damages under the antitrust laws presents a justiciable controversy.

At page 11 of their brief, the respondents assert that we are asking the court as they dramatically put in “To boldly create new law”.

And while I suppose most lawyers appearing before this aghast body would like in some measure to be the architect of some new jurisprudential principle.

I must respectfully submit to you that it is the respondents in asking you to affirm what we regard to be the erroneous decision of the Ninth Circuit who in fact asked you to make new law by overruling the established law made by this Court.

To submit to the Court that under two separate sets of precedents and analysis, reversal of the Ninth Circuit's decision is required.

And to begin with the case of this Court in 1945 in State of Georgia versus Pennsylvania Railroad, is I submit dispositive of the issue framed by this appeal.

In that case, the Court dealt with precisely the same question laid before it here.

Namely, whether a justiciable controversy existed by the claim of the State of Georgia for both damages and injunctive relief alleged parens patriae based on violations of the antitrust laws in the Railroad Industry.

And while this Court in holding that such a justiciable controversy was presented in permitting the State of Georgia to file an original complaint in this Court.

Ultimately concluded that its prior holding in Keogh versus Chicago and Northwestern Railroad presented an impediment of the collection of damages, I respectfully submit and I think it patently obvious that the interdiction of that defense is completely unrelated to the standing question presented by this appeal and is no more relevant than if the claim for damages would have been barred for example, by the statute of limitations by release, by res judicata or by some other substantive legal defense.

The Court in fact dealt with the same question whether or not the claim could be perfected in equity under Section 16 of the Clayton Act which the Court will recall interdicts private parties from securing injunctive relief on subject matters which are under the jurisdiction, regulatory jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

In that case the Court went on to hold that Section 16 did not interdict Georgia’s claim parens patriae for equitable relief.

But the basic holding remains unimpaired, the District Court found that the Georgia case was dispositive and that this Court had ruled in Georgia that a justiciable controversy is presented by reason of a section for a claim for damages parens patriae under the antitrust laws brought by a State.

I respectfully submit that the underpinning of Georgia is the recognition by this Court that Section 4 of the Clayton Act which permits treble damages and Section 16 of the Clayton Act which permits equitable relief are coextensive.

A concept expressly articulated later by this Court in its first decision in Zenith versus Hazeltine in 1969 which recognized the fact that the two statutes afford different remedies for the invasion of a property rights.

Section 4 permits damages and Section 16 permits injunctive relief against threat and future injury.

In the Georgia case, it must be clear therefore that the Court made a valued judgment and said that the interest of a State in the protection of its general economy against invasion, constituted a property right capable of protection and capable of redress under the antitrust laws.

So we say to you as we said to the District Judge that where conduct violative of the antitrust laws affects the general welfare of the state, where there is an alleged price-fixing conspiracy which on the record before us, we must accept is factually supportive.

Where there is a pervasive price-fixing conspiracy affecting a large number of consumers, that this kind of controversy which affects the general welfare and economy of a State rises above the question of local private rights and involves a matter of state interest such that it raises a property interest under Section 4 of the Clayton Act or Section 16 of the Clayton Act which is protected parens patriae by an action by the State.

Now, we submit here that it is unnecessary to reexamine the rationale of the Georgia versus Pennsylvania Railroads analysis.

We would contend that the majority opinion of Mr. Justice Douglas and the dissent of Mr. Justice Stone adequately exhaust the merits of the respected positions which could be articulated in respect to whether or not a State parens patriae can make a claim for damages under the antitrust laws, where there has been an extensive injury to the consumers of the State by reason of a pervasive antitrust violation.

We asked only that the Court here reversed the error of the Ninth Circuit in holding that the Georgia case did not dispose of the present claim in to District Court.

And in saying that we urge upon you that as respondents who are here before you in effect suggesting that you repeal the decision in Georgia which has remained unimpaired for more than 25 years.

I further respectfully submit to you that even absent of decision in Georgia versus Pennsylvania Railroad.

This Court and the basis of prior precedence would not be charging any new jurisprudential ground were to affirm the holding of the District Court and reverse the Ninth Circuit.

Recall in the case of J.I Case Company versus Borak, this Court said that it is the duty of the Courts to provide such remedies, as are necessary to make effective a Congressional purpose.

And that where legal rights have been invaded and a federal statute provides for a general right to sue for such invasion, Federal Courts may use any available remedy to make good the wrong done.