Washington v. General Motors Corporation

PETITIONER: Washington
RESPONDENT: General Motors Corporation
LOCATION: US District Court for the Northern District of Texas

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 406 US 109 (1972)
ARGUED: Feb 28, 1972 / Feb 29, 1972
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1972

Fredric C. Tausend - for plaintiffs
Lloyd N. Cutler - for defendants

Facts of the case


Media for Washington v. General Motors Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 29, 1972 in Washington v. General Motors Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 28, 1972 in Washington v. General Motors Corporation

Warren E. Burger:

I think the last counsel in Number 45, Original, State of Washington and General Motors that these two represent themselves and see whether you would like to commence your argument now or whether you would prefer to begin in the morning.

You may have -- address yourself to that very briefly if you wish.

Fredric C. Tausend:

Mr. Chief Justice, my name is Fredric Tausend.

I am a Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Washington.

I could introduce the argument now if that’s satisfactory to Mr. Cutler.

Warren E. Burger:

Primarily you would --

Fredric C. Tausend:

I would divide my argument in half but I’d be willing to do it.

Warren E. Burger:

Primarily your problem, so we’ll let you go ahead.

We will wait for Mr. Cutler to dissemble here.

Mr. Tausend you may proceed.

Fredric C. Tausend:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is an antitrust action brought by 18 States against the Four Major American Automobile Manufacturers and their trade association, charging the defendants with violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

We are here on the motion of the Plaintiff States to file this action as an original action.

And we are joined in this request by 18 additional States in the City of New York as amici curiae who have indicated to this Court that they would intervene in this action for a total of 36 States in the City of New York if this Court exercises its original jurisdiction.

Now, the complaint which we proposed to file charges the defendants with a Section 1 Sherman Act conspiracy lasting over 15 years from 1953 until at least 1968.

The purpose in effect of which was to delay, prevent and retard the development, the manufacture and finally the installation of pollution control equipment for their automobiles.

I would like if I could, to flash out the allegations of this compliant with reference to some of the documents which have been obtained and reviewed by us in connection with a related multi-district proceeding in Los Angeles to which I will refer shortly.

Mainly for the purpose of assuring this Court that this is not a case where we have serious allegations of illegal activity but no evidence to support them.

But a protective order entered in MDL 31 prevents me from giving such examples.

Suffice it to say, that the charges on which our compliant is based are identical to a civil action filed by the Justice Department in January 1969, settled in October 1969 by consent decreed.

The injunctive relief obtained by the Government in that decree is entirely preventative.

It seeks to prevent the alleged conspiracy from continuing and so it ended the alleged conspiracy and to quote former Attorney General Mitchell as we do as page 18 of our opening brief, “It encouraged immediate action by the automobile companies to solve the problem.

However, it did not attempt to repair the damage which continues to this day and in the future to be inflicted by the cars manufactured as a result of the alleged conspiracy.”

And this is where the 36 States and the other Governmental bodies have taken up to cajoles with this action.

This act --

Potter Stewart:

Is the retrofit problem or whatever you call it, retro?

Fredric C. Tausend:


Potter Stewart:

Retrofit, that’s the --

Fredric C. Tausend:

Yes, Mr. Justice Stewart

Potter Stewart:

That’s basically the -- on the merits that’s the remaining problem.