United States v. McKesson & Robbins, Inc.

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: McKesson & Robbins, Inc.
LOCATION:

DOCKET NO.: 448
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT:

ARGUED: Apr 30, 1956
DECIDED: Jun 11, 1956

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. McKesson & Robbins, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 30, 1956 in United States v. McKesson & Robbins, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 448, United States of America versus McKesson and Robbins.

Mr. Spritzer.

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Mr. Chief Justice, Your Honors.

We have in this case a question whether certain prize fixing agreements, more specifically, certain agreements providing for resale prize maintenance are exempted from the normal operation of the antitrust laws and that question is a narrow statutory one.

It turns on the language of the Miller-Tydings Act and of the subsequent McGuire Act.

Stated in what have become popular terms, the question is whether the particular agreements which the Government sought to enjoin here for within the so-called "fair trade" exemption.

Let me invite to the Court's attention early, the specific words with which we are here concern.

And I might say preliminary that for all practical purposes, the words are the same in the Miller-Tydings Act of 1937 and in the McGuire Act of 1952.

Is this case came up on summary judgment or after the trial?

Ralph S. Spritzer:

It came up after trial.

Actually, it was a very limited trial in which the parties relied primarily on documents and on certain depositions.

The Government had previously moved for summary judgment on the theory that on the admitted facts or undisputed facts this could be enjoined.

That motion was denied.

Subsequently, it went to trial at which time the Government stood basically on its position that the District Judge had urged in denying the motion for summary judgement though it did as I point out later, suggest that it had something further provide on.

Now, Your Honors, of course, recall the federal fare trade legislation, to use that term, permits, broadly speaking, resale price maintenance in respect of branded or trademark goods which have competition from other goods of the same general character that permission from federal law being conditioned upon the particular agreement being legal under relevant state law.

But this authorization, this immunity from the effect of the Sherman Act is explicitly limited by a rather pointed proviso which is the center of controversy in this case.

And that proviso paragraph is setout among other places in the Government's opening brief at page 38.

It begins by stating in substance that nothing in the exemption statute shall make lawful.

And then, I will quote the exact words which we have italicized there on printed page.

"Nothing contained in the paragraph shall make lawful agreements."

Now, I'm quoting, "Between manufactures or between producers or between wholesalers,"

and that phrase particular important in this case and then going on, "Or between brokers or between factors or between retailers or -- and again we emphasize specially, between persons, firms or corporations in competition with each other."

Now, that language, as the Court will note by granting further down the page is identical for all practical purposes with the language of the proviso in Miller-Tydings.

Now, with that proviso in mind, let me --

Felix Frankfurter:

Sorry to interrupt you.

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Yes, sir.

Felix Frankfurter:

Wasn't the entire Act contended to the clarification of what -- what might call -- some of the -- they lack ambiguities, the lack of clarities (Inaudible)

Ralph S. Spritzer:

Yes.

But in this respect, there was no change.

Felix Frankfurter:

There's no change.