Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company v. United States

PETITIONER: Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: U.S. District Court Southern District of California

DOCKET NO.: 489
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 360 US 395 (1959)
ARGUED: Apr 28, 1959 / Apr 29, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1959 in Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 1959 in Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 489, Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, Petitioner, versus United States of America.

Mr. Hazard, you may proceed.

Leland Hazard:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is an antitrust case in which the petitioner, Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, and six other defendants and two individuals were convicted of a price-fixing conspiracy.

The conviction was sustained in the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and petition for writ of certiorari was limited to the -- granted and limited to the question whether a grand jury testimony may be a prior statement within the meaning of Jencks versus United States.

I'll state just enough of the facts to eliminate that issue.

A trade association known as the Mirror Manufacturers Association of which Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, if I may, I'll refer to that company as PPG hereafter, PPG was not a member of the trade association.

It held its 1954 annual meeting at Asheville, North Carolina.

A representative of PPG, W. A. Gordon, a manager of Plate Glass Sales, the only defendant -- individual defendant who was acquitted in the case, was present at this association meeting for the purpose of cultivating customers for polished plate glass.

Mirrors are made, as I am sure the Court knows, by the silvering of one side of a certain quality of plate glass.

Now, another name, Jonas, a name which will loom -- does loom large in the issue before us.

The Government's principal witness, Jonas was the President of one of the larger mirror manufactures, not indicted in the case.

Jonas was not present at Asheville.

There was concern there among the mirror manufactures present in Asheville about a shortage of plate glass, a shortage which was occurring particularly at the time when the market, which had been quite bad for mirrors, was looking up.

And, there was discussion at Asheville among some of the mirror manufactures about an increase in price.

Some of them made a telephone call and a joint call to Jonas who was not there and reported to him the discussion about the price of -- of plate glass mirrors.

Jonas expressed disbelief.

There had been a price war.

It was not the best feeling, apparently, in some quarters.

And, Jonas said he'd liked to talk to Gordon.

And Gordon was requested to -- to call Jonas by some of those who had first called Jonas, and Gordon did.

The only testimony we have on what was said in that telephone conversation between Gordon and Jonas is the testimony of Jonas.

He said, first, that he -- Jonas was not much in favor of raising my prices at that time, but he asked Gordon if there was anything to this discussion and Gordon said he had heard, in some of the rooms, some conversation about price.

We must look again to the uncorroborated testimony of Jonas as to this portion of the record.

Jonas said in his testimony that Gordon might have said, just like anybody would say, “You ought to be getting more for the product than we were getting for it.”

Now, Jonas testified that the alleged conspiracy could not have been effectuated without Jonas' participation.

And, he, himself, confessed -- conspirator claimed for himself indispensability.

The Asheville meeting ended at the end of the third day and, on the next day following, there was a meeting at a place called the “Bluffs,” an inn on Blue Ridge Parkway.

And, those present at this meeting were Messer, one of the defendants, Buchan, representing one of the corporate defendants, Stroupe, representing one of the corporate defendants, and Jonas who had not been present at Asheville but did go to the meeting at the Bluffs.

No one representing PPG was present at the meeting at the Bluffs.