Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, No. 51287

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtENGLAND; OVERTON; KARL
Citation354 So.2d 372
Docket NumberNo. 51287
Decision Date08 December 1977
Parties1977-2 Trade Cases P 61,768 MOBIL OIL CORPORATION, Shell Oil Company, Marathon Oil Company, Continental Oil Company, Phillips Petroleum Company, Atlantic Richfield Company and Cities Service Company, Appellants, v. Robert L. SHEVIN, Attorney General, State of Florida, Appellee.

Page 372

354 So.2d 372
1977-2 Trade Cases P 61,768
MOBIL OIL CORPORATION, Shell Oil Company, Marathon Oil Company, Continental Oil Company, Phillips Petroleum Company, Atlantic Richfield Company and Cities Service Company, Appellants,
v.
Robert L. SHEVIN, Attorney General, State of Florida, Appellee.
No. 51287.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Dec. 8, 1977.
Rehearing Denied Feb. 22, 1978.

Page 373

Andrew J. Kilcarr and Maureen O'Bryon of Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine, Washington, D.C., Thomas R. Trowbridge, III, Charles F. Rice, New York City, and John A. Madigan, Jr. and Jack M. Skelding, Jr., of Madigan, Parker, Gatlin, Swedmark and Skelding, Tallahassee, for appellants.

Robert L. Shevin, Atty. Gen., and William C. Sherrill, Jr., Chief Trial Counsel and Charles R. Ranson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, for appellee.

Page 374

ENGLAND, Judge.

This case is brought to us on direct appeal from an order of the Leon County Circuit Court holding that the Attorney General of the State of Florida had autonomous authority to initiate a federal antitrust lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the state and its agencies, or alternatively that such authority was retroactively conferred by a resolution of the Florida Cabinet. 1 The trial court action was instituted by Mobil Oil Corporation and six other oil companies (collectively "Mobil") for declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the Attorney General from continuing his prosecution of an ongoing federal antitrust suit against them, in which the identical question as to his authority had been decided adversely to them by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 2

The threshold question for our determination is raised on a cross-assignment of error by the Attorney General, who contends that his motion to dismiss this action in the circuit court should have been granted on the ground of collateral estoppel. We agree. Collateral estoppel, or estoppel by judgment, is a judicial doctrine which in general terms prevents identical parties from relitigating issues that have previously been decided between them. 3 The essential elements of the doctrine are that the parties and issues be identical, 4 and that the particular matter be fully litigated and determined in a contest which results in a final decision of a court of competent jurisdiction. 5 All of these elements are present here.

Mobil does not contend that the parties or issues are different in this proceeding from the parties and issues in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Rather, it argues that collateral estoppel is inapplicable because the federal court decision was not "final". For this proposition, Mobil relies on a statement in the majority opinion of the Fifth Circuit suggesting that the court's evaluation of the Attorney General's authority was merely tentative because "only the Florida Supreme Court can decide this state law question in a manner that is, by definition, correct." 6

The position Mobil asserts is untenable. Notwithstanding any acknowledgment of this Court's preeminence on questions of Florida law, there is nothing tentative about the Fifth Circuit's decision that, as between these parties, the Attorney General of Florida had standing to initiate and prosecute this federal antitrust suit. Of controlling significance is the legal effect of that court's determination, not what was incidentally said. Mobil does not deny that the issue of the Attorney General's authority was fully and effectively litigated in a proceeding which culminated in a written opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, nor that certiorari was sought to review that decision in the United States Supreme Court and denied. It necessarily follows, then, that as between these parties in this lawsuit, that issue is conclusively determined. 7

Mobil does not suggest that the same issue could be relitigated in any other federal court, or in the courts of any other jurisdiction. It contends, however, that the

Page 375

issue can be relitigated in Florida because the Florida Supreme Court has the ultimate authority to decide the standing of the Attorney General of Florida to initiate lawsuits, and for that reason the Florida Supreme Court should be given an opportunity to speak to that issue. We find no fault with the first part of Mobil's contention, and if the matter came to us in a proper case there is no doubt that our decision on our Constitution's grant of authority to the Attorney General of Florida would be binding precedent not only in Florida but in any other jurisdiction where the question might later be litigated. 8 That fact, however, does not substantiate Mobil's conclusion that we should now address the issue. The Fifth Circuit's determination that the Attorney General had standing to initiate this federal anti-trust litigation does not bind this Court to a like determination in any other proceeding. 9 Consequently, that decision neither presents a reason for us to pass on the issue nor poses a threat to our jurisprudence if we do not.

Our action in this cause follows well-established doctrine. As a matter of comity, courts of competent jurisdiction have routinely applied the law of other jurisdictions when required to do so for the purpose of their own litigation. 10 Collateral estoppel has traditionally operated to preclude litigants from relitigating the same issue not only in the same, but as well in a different forum. 11 Clearly, then, the Fifth Circuit's decision is the law of this case. 12

Some years ago, the State of Florida initiated the process of "certification", by which federal appellate courts may certify to this Court questions of Florida law that are "determinative of (the) cause" and for which there are "no clear...

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107 practice notes
  • Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Dolgencorp, LLC, Nos. 12–14527
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • March 5, 2014
    ...of the leases in this case has not “previously been decided between” Winn–Dixie and Dollar General. Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, 354 So.2d 372, 374 (Fla.1977); cf. Rufenacht v. Iowa Beef Processors, Inc., 656 F.2d 198, 203 (5th Cir. Sept.1981) (refusing to apply collateral estoppel due to non......
  • Siegel v. LePore, No. 00-15981
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • December 6, 2000
    ...bars identical parties from relitigating only those issues that have previously been decided between them. See Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, 354 So.2d 372, 374 (Fla. 1977). Where, as here, the issue in dispute has not been fully litigated, the doctrine is inapplicable. We therefore conclude th......
  • Watkins v. Resorts Intern. Hotel and Casino, Inc., No. A-77
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 11, 1991
    ...judgments, as mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1738, but also that state courts honor federal court judgments. See Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, 354 So.2d 372, 375-76 (Fla.1977). As we said in Velasquez, supra, 123 N.J. at 512, 589 A.2d at 151, "[w]e would not approve a federal court's decision to igno......
  • Pressley v. Wainwright, No. 42684
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 25, 1979
    ...but apparently adopted the federal district court's conclusion to that effect. 540 F.2d at 821 n. 11. 7 See Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, 354 So.2d 372, 374 8 Crawford v. Wainwright, 222 So.2d 188 (Fla.1969). See also State ex rel. Kovnot v. Ferguson, 313 So.2d 710 (Fla.1975). 9 See Lake v. La......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
108 cases
  • Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Dolgencorp, LLC, Nos. 12–14527
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • March 5, 2014
    ...of the leases in this case has not “previously been decided between” Winn–Dixie and Dollar General. Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, 354 So.2d 372, 374 (Fla.1977); cf. Rufenacht v. Iowa Beef Processors, Inc., 656 F.2d 198, 203 (5th Cir. Sept.1981) (refusing to apply collateral estoppel due to non......
  • Siegel v. LePore, No. 00-15981
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • December 6, 2000
    ...bars identical parties from relitigating only those issues that have previously been decided between them. See Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, 354 So.2d 372, 374 (Fla. 1977). Where, as here, the issue in dispute has not been fully litigated, the doctrine is inapplicable. We therefore conclude th......
  • Watkins v. Resorts Intern. Hotel and Casino, Inc., No. A-77
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 11, 1991
    ...judgments, as mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1738, but also that state courts honor federal court judgments. See Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, 354 So.2d 372, 375-76 (Fla.1977). As we said in Velasquez, supra, 123 N.J. at 512, 589 A.2d at 151, "[w]e would not approve a federal court's decision to igno......
  • Pressley v. Wainwright, No. 42684
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 25, 1979
    ...but apparently adopted the federal district court's conclusion to that effect. 540 F.2d at 821 n. 11. 7 See Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, 354 So.2d 372, 374 8 Crawford v. Wainwright, 222 So.2d 188 (Fla.1969). See also State ex rel. Kovnot v. Ferguson, 313 So.2d 710 (Fla.1975). 9 See Lake v. La......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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