National Society of Professional Engineers v. United States

PETITIONER: National Society of Professional Engineers
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Virginia Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission

DOCKET NO.: 76-1767
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 435 US 679 (1978)
ARGUED: Jan 18, 1978
DECIDED: Apr 25, 1978

ADVOCATES:
Howard E. Shapiro - for respondent
Lee Loevinger - for petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Society of Professional Engineers v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 18, 1978 in National Society of Professional Engineers v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 25, 1978 in National Society of Professional Engineers v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinions of the Court in two cases, National Society of Professional Engineers against The United States, and City of Los Angeles against Manhart will each be announced by Mr. Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

In National Society of Professional Engineers against United States, the United States brought this civil antitrust suit against the Society, alleging that it's canon of ethics which prohibits members from submitting competitive bids for engineering services, suppressed competition in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

The Society defended on the ground that the canon was justified under the Rule of Reasons because it was adapted by members of a learned profession for the purpose of minimizing the risk, that competition would reduce inferior engineering work, endangering the public safety.

Without making any findings on the likelihood that competition would produce the dire consequences envisaged by petitioner, the District Court rejected this justification.

The Court of Appeals affirmed and we granted certiorari.

On its face the canon restrains trade within the meaning of the Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

Under the Rule of Reason the proper inquiry is whether the challenged agreement is one that promotes competition or one that suppresses competition.

The Rule does not supported a defense based on an argument that competition itself is unreasonable.

Accordingly for reasons stated in full in an opinion filed with the clerk, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Blackmun filed an opinion in which Mr. Justice Rehnquist joined, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

The Chief Justice filed an opinion concurring in part and descending in part.

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