Professional Real Estate Investors, Inc. v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

PETITIONER: Professional Real Estate Investors, Inc., et al.
RESPONDENT: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., et al.
LOCATION: Jacksonville City Council

DOCKET NO.: 91-1043
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 508 US 49 (1993)
ARGUED: Nov 02, 1992
DECIDED: May 03, 1993

ADVOCATES:
Andrew J. Pincus - on behalf of the Respondents
Patrick J. Coyne - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Professional Real Estate Investors, Inc. v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 02, 1992 in Professional Real Estate Investors, Inc. v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 91-1043, the Professional Real Estate Investors v. Columbia Pictures Industries.

Mr. Coyne.

Patrick J. Coyne:

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

This Court has held repeatedly that use of the litigation process as an anticompetitive weapon, as opposed to use of the outcome of that process, violates the antitrust laws.

The question today is whether in drawing the line between legitimate and illegitimate uses of the judicial process a court can refuse to consider highly relevant evidence of intent under the Ninth Circuit's baselessness standard.

Even a memorandum in a party's files admitting that the only reason a case was brought was to drive a competitor out of the market through the cost of the litigation process, regardless of the outcome, would not be admissable or even discoverable.

I would like to establish today three points.

First, predatory litigation, that is, a suit that is brought to burden, to harass, to intimidate, to impose costs upon a competitor regardless of the outcome of the judicial process, violates the antitrust laws.

Second, the Ninth Circuit's baselessness test strips these important antitrust concerns of any realistic level of protection.

A case can be more than baseless, yet still use the judicial process improperly to harm competition.

The Ninth Circuit standard would immunize these predatory cases in spite of the antitrust injury they cause and in spite of the absence of any genuine intent to petition the courts for redress of grievances under the First Amendment.

Third, an inquiry into subjective intent is workable.

It also does not chill the exercise of genuine First Amendment rights.

Even rule 11 allows an inquiry into subjective intent of the litigant.

William H. Rehnquist:

What precise intent would you say was sufficient here, Mr. Coyne?

Patrick J. Coyne:

Chief Justice, it's the intent to use the process itself to harm competition as distinct from the intent to achieve a judicial outcome as an anticompetitive tool.

William H. Rehnquist:

And do you think... what about a mixed motive case where you're rummaging through a corporation's files?

You come across one thing that says maybe this and another thing that says maybe that.

Patrick J. Coyne:

Virtually every case is going to be a case of mixed motive.

If we begin in a summary judgment setting such as this with the premise that there is an anticompetitive intent, as we have to in this case, then the predator is going to accept the kill.

They will not turn it away.

So, there's going to always be a willingness to accept a positive judicial result.

What the trier of fact has to do is consider all of the evidence of intent and reach a finding on whether it was motivated by an attempt to abuse the process as opposed to achieve the outcome.

Byron R. White:

And that's the end of the case.

Is that... one way or another, whether the case is baseless or not or whatever the outcome, intent is the sole and only determiner.

Patrick J. Coyne:

No, Justice White.

We don't believe that intent is the sole determinant.

There are a number of factors this Court has looked at over the years.

In Allied Tube it identified the context, the source, the nature of the petition.

In California Motor Transport, it looked directly at the intent with which it's brought.