United States v. Ward Baking Company

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Ward Baking Company
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 376 US 327 (1964)
ARGUED: Feb 18, 1964
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Ward Baking Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 18, 1964 in United States v. Ward Baking Company

Earl Warren:

United States, Appellant, versus Ward Baking Company, et al.

Mr. Orrick.


Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case, a civil antitrust case, is here on appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

The jurisdiction of this Court is conferred by Section 2 of the Expediting Act.

The question presented by this case is a simple one.

After consent decree negotiations between the Government and appellees had reached an impasse, appellees requested the District Court to enter an injunction which was narrower than that sought by the Government.

The difference between these two decrees turned on factual issues without a trial of any kind on those issues or indeed, on any of the issues framed by the pleadings and without the consent of the Government, the District Court entered the injunction proposed by the appellees.

The question simply stated is whether the District Court erred and so doing.

The underlying facts are very briefly these, on March 6, 1961, two indictments were filed in the court below charging certain bakery companies with conduct which violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

In one indictment, all five appellees here were charged with combining and conspiring to allocate among themselves the business of supplying bread and rolls to federal naval installations in Jackson, Florida and submitting non-competitive and rigged bids and price quotations.

In the second indictment, four of the five appellees here plus two other companies were charged with combining and conspiring to fix and maintain the prices in which they sold bakery products to nongovernment wholesale accounts which are defined as grocery stores, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and similar large purchasers.

All of the defendants in both criminal cases were convicted on their pleas of nolo contendere and fines were imposed.

Now, the case at bar, a civil action, was brought against all five of the defendants who had been convicted of fixing prices in connection with the sales to the Government.

Four of whom, as I've previously stated, were also convicted of fixing prices on the nongovernment sales.

The complaint asked for both damages and injunctive relief pertaining to the violations on sales to the Government and in addition, a request for whatever more general injunctive relief might be deemed appropriate after a trial.

Answers containing general denials were filed in due course and thereafter, consent decree negotiations were initiated by appellees with Government counsel.

These negotiations followed the normal course.

The parties first negotiated a settlement of a count for damages and they have reached an agreement pursuant to which the parties paid -- agreed to pay the Government $44,000.

At that time, the -- the appellees offered to take an injunction limited to the specific prayers set forth in the complaint.

The Government, this was not satisfactory to the Government, and the Government proposed a broader injunction enjoining the defendants from price fixing with regard to sales to third parties and forbidding certain attempts to set the price on resale of the appellees' bakery products.

Counsel for the appellees refused to accept the Government's proposal and he then submitted a -- another proposal which was broader in scope than his first one and went beyond the scope of the prayers for relief in the complaint.

Further attempts to negotiate, and they were a good many, which I won't detail, were fruitless and the negotiations reached an impasse.

And just briefly, the Government wished two provisions to which the appellees would not agree.

First, that they be enjoined from price fixing with regard to sales to third parties and second, that they be enjoined from setting the price on resale of their bakery products.

Appellees then filed a motion in the court below for entry of their first judgment.

The Court issued an order to show cause why the judgment shouldn't be entered.

Appellees then amended the motion to have the Court enter their broader proposal and a hearing was held on this motion.

At the hearing, the Court was advised by counsel for both sides of the nature of the impasse.

And he was advised by counsel for the Government that at the trial and at the hearing on relief, the Government would bring in evidence to support its broader decree.