United States v. Grant Co, No. 532

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCLARK
Citation345 U.S. 629,97 L.Ed. 1303,73 S.Ct. 894
PartiesUNITED STATES v. W. T. GRANT CO. et al
Decision Date25 May 1953
Docket NumberNo. 532

345 U.S. 629
73 S.Ct. 894
97 L.Ed. 1303
UNITED STATES

v.

W. T. GRANT CO. et al.

No. 532.
Argued and Submitted April 9, 1953.
Decided May 25, 1953.

Mr. Victor H. Kramer, Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Mr. Eustace Seligman, New York City, for appellees John M. Hancock et al.

Mr. Abe Fortas, Washington, D.C., for appellee Kroger Co.

Page 630

Mr. Harry H. Wiggins, New York City, for appellee S. H. Kresge Co.

Mr. Justice CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

For the first time since the enactment of the Clayton Act in 1914 the Court is called upon to consider § 8's prohibitions against interlocking corporate directorates.1 The Government appeals from judgments dismissing civil actions brought against Hancock and three pairs of corporations which he served as a director, W. T. Grant Co. and S. H. Kress & Co., Sears Roebuck & Co. and Bond Stores, Inc., and Kroger Co. and Jewel Tea Co., Inc. Alleging that the size and competitive relationship of each set of companies brought the interlocks within the reach of § 8, the complaints asked the court to order the particular interlocks terminated and to enjoin future violations of § 8 by the individual and corporate defendants. Soon after the complaints were filed, Hancock resigned from the boards of Kress, Kroger and Bond. Disclosing the resignations by affidavit, all of the defendants then moved to dismiss the actions as moot. Treated as motions for summary judgment,2 they were granted by the District Judge. His concluded that there is not 'the

Page 631

slightest threat that the defendants will attempt any future activity in violation of § 8 (if they have violated it already) * * *.' 112 F.Supp. 336, 338. The Government brought this direct appeal under § 2 of the Expediting Act, 32 Stat. 823, as amended, 62 Stat. 989, 15 U.S.C.(Supp. V) § 29, 15 U.S.C.A. § 29, contending that the cases were not rendered moot by Hancock's resignations and that it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to refuse any injunctive relief.

Appellees suggest, without arguing the point in extenso, that the judgment should be affirmed because § 11 of the Clayton Act vests exclusive § 8 enforcement powers in the Federal Trade Commission.3 Section 11 does authorize the Commission to enforce § 8. But any inference that administrative jurisdiction was intended to be exclusive falls before the plain words of § 15: 'The several district courts of the United States are hereby invested with jurisdiction to prevent and restrain violations of this

Page 632

Act * * *.' 15 U.S.C. § 25, 15 U.S.C.A. § 25. And the cases have spoken of Congress' design to provide a scheme of dual enforcement for the Clayton Act. United States Alkali Export Ass'n v. United States, 1945, 325 U.S. 196, 208, 65 S.Ct. 1120, 1127, 89 L.Ed. 1554; Standard Oil Co. of California and Standard Stations v. United States, 1949, 337 U.S. 293, 310, note 13, 69 S.Ct. 1051, 1060, 93 L.Ed. 1371. Appellees' failure to press the point denotes its merits. The District Court properly entertained the suits.

Both sides agree to the abstract proposition that voluntary cessation of allegedly illegal conduct does not deprive the tribunal of power to hear and determine the case, i.e., does not make the case moot. United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Ass'n, 1897, 166 U.S. 290, 17 S.Ct. 540, 41 L.Ed. 1007; Walling v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc., 1944, 323 U.S. 37, 65 S.Ct. 11, 89 L.Ed. 29; Hecht Co. v. Bowles, 1944, 321 U.S. 321, 64 S.Ct. 587, 88 L.Ed. 754. A controversy may remain to be settled in such circumstances, United States v. Aluminum Co. of America, 2 Cir., 1945, 148 F.2d 416, 448, e.g., a dispute over the legality of the challenged practices. Walling v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc., supra; Local 74 United Brotherhood of Carpenters, etc., v. National Labor Relations Board, 1951, 341 U.S. 707, 715, 71 S.Ct. 966, 970, 95 L.Ed. 1309. The defendant is free to return to his old ways.4 This, together with a public interest in having the legality of the practices settled, militates against a mootness conclusion. United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Ass'n, supra, 166 U.S. at pages 309, 310, 17 S.Ct. 546, 547. For to say that the case has become moot means that the defendant is entitled to a dismissal as a matter of right, National Labor Relations Board v. General Motors Corp., 2 Cir., 1950, 179 F.2d 221. The courts have rightly refused to grant defendants such a powerful weapon against public law enforcement.5

Page 633

The case may nevertheless be moot if the defendant can demonstrate that 'there is no reasonable expectation that the wrong will be repeated.'6 The burden is a heavy one. Here the defendants told the court that the interlocks no longer existed and disclaimed any intention to revive them. Such a profession does not suffice to make a case moot although it is one of the factors to be considered in determining the appropriateness of granting an injunction against the now-discontinued acts.

Along with its power to hear the case, the court's power to grant injunctive relief survives discontinuance of the illegal conduct. Hecht Co. v. Bowles, supra; Goshen Mfg. Co. v. Hubert A. Myers Mfg. Co., 1916, 242 U.S. 202, 37 S.Ct. 105, 61 L.Ed. 248. The purpose of an injunction is to prevent future violations, Swift & Co. v. United States, 1928, 276 U.S. 311, 326, 48 S.Ct. 311, 314, 72 L.Ed. 587 and, of course, it can be utilized even without a showing of past wrongs. But the moving party must satisfy the court that relief is needed. The necessary determination is that there exists some cognizable danger of recurrent violation, something more than the mere possibility which serves to keep the case alive. The chancellor's decision is based on all the circumstances; his discretion is necessarily broad and a strong showing of abuse must be made to reverse it. To be considered are the bona fides of the expressed intent to comply, the effectiveness of the discontinuance and, in some cases, the character of the past violations.

The facts relied on by the Government to show an abuse of discretion in this case are these: Hancock's three interlocking directorates viewed as three distinct violations, his failure to terminate them until after suit was

Page 634

filed despite five years of administrative attempts to persuade him of their illegality, his express refusal to concede that the interlocks in question were illegal under the statute and his failure to promise not to commit similar violations in the future.

Were we sitting as a trial court, this showing might be persuasive. But the Government must demonstrate that there was no reasonable basis for the District Judge's decision.7 In this we think it fails. An individual proclivity to violate the statute need not be inferred from the fact that three violations were charged, particularly since it is only recently that the Government has attempted systematic enforcement of § 8.8 The District Court was not dealing with a defendant who follows one adjudicated violation with others. The only material before the District Judge on the supposed five years of administrative persuasion could easily support an inference that during that time the defendant and the Department of Justice were each trying to determine the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2150 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Blue Ribbon Smoked Fish, Inc., No. CV-01-3887 (CPS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • November 19, 2001
    ...satisfy the burden to establish that "there is no reasonable expectation that the wrong will be repeated." United States v. W.T. Grant, 345 U.S. 629, 633, 73 S.Ct. 894, 97 L.Ed. 1303 The defendants oppose the substance and form of the government's proposed permanent injunction on basically ......
  • Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., No. 95-3055
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • February 16, 1996
    ...not constitutionally moot, is well established." S-1 v. Spangler, 832 F.2d 294, 297 (4th Cir.1987); see also, United States v. W.T. Grant, 345 U.S. 629, 73 S.Ct. 894, 97 L.Ed. 1303 (1953); A.L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. U.S., 368 U.S. 324, 82 S.Ct. 337, 7 L.Ed.2d 317 (1961). For many of......
  • Donovan v. Cunningham, No. 82-2296
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • October 17, 1983
    ...F.2d 1351, 1387-88 (5th Cir.1980). This is because "[t]he defendant is free to return to his old ways." United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 632, 73 S.Ct. 894, 897, 97 L.Ed. 1303 (1953). To obtain a dismissal on mootness grounds, a defendant bears a heavy burden to show that "ther......
  • United States v. Microsoft Corporation, Civil Action No. 98-1232 (TPJ) (D. D.C. 9/14/1998), Civil Action No. 98-1232 (TPJ).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 14, 1998
    ...live and present."). "[V]oluntary cessation of allegedly illegal conduct" does "not make the case moot." United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 632 (1953). Where the "defendant is free to return to his old ways," id., it must demonstrate that it is "absolutely clear" that "the alleg......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2145 cases
  • U.S. v. Blue Ribbon Smoked Fish, Inc., No. CV-01-3887 (CPS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • November 19, 2001
    ...satisfy the burden to establish that "there is no reasonable expectation that the wrong will be repeated." United States v. W.T. Grant, 345 U.S. 629, 633, 73 S.Ct. 894, 97 L.Ed. 1303 The defendants oppose the substance and form of the government's proposed permanent injunction on basically ......
  • Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., No. 95-3055
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • February 16, 1996
    ...not constitutionally moot, is well established." S-1 v. Spangler, 832 F.2d 294, 297 (4th Cir.1987); see also, United States v. W.T. Grant, 345 U.S. 629, 73 S.Ct. 894, 97 L.Ed. 1303 (1953); A.L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. U.S., 368 U.S. 324, 82 S.Ct. 337, 7 L.Ed.2d 317 (1961). For many of......
  • Donovan v. Cunningham, No. 82-2296
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • October 17, 1983
    ...F.2d 1351, 1387-88 (5th Cir.1980). This is because "[t]he defendant is free to return to his old ways." United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 632, 73 S.Ct. 894, 897, 97 L.Ed. 1303 (1953). To obtain a dismissal on mootness grounds, a defendant bears a heavy burden to show that "ther......
  • United States v. Microsoft Corporation, Civil Action No. 98-1232 (TPJ) (D. D.C. 9/14/1998), Civil Action No. 98-1232 (TPJ).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 14, 1998
    ...live and present."). "[V]oluntary cessation of allegedly illegal conduct" does "not make the case moot." United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 632 (1953). Where the "defendant is free to return to his old ways," id., it must demonstrate that it is "absolutely clear" that "the alleg......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Introduction to the CWA and the administrative process
    • United States
    • Introduction to environmental law: cases and materials on water pollution control - 2d Edition
    • July 23, 2017
    ...expected to recur but will always proceed to conclusion faster than the judicial process of review. See United States v. W.T. Grant Co. , 345 U.S. 629 (1953). A related exception applies when the challenged action is withdrawn by the agency for the purpose of evading review. he court may ac......
  • Table of authorities
    • United States
    • Introduction to environmental law: cases and materials on water pollution control - 2d Edition
    • July 23, 2017
    ...2d Edition United States v. Wilson, 133 F.3d 251, 28 ELR 20299 (4th Cir. 1997) ...................... 195 United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629 (1953) ............................................... 152 Unitek Envtl. Servs, Inc. v. City of Portland, 11 F.3d 900, 24 ELR 20238 (9th Ci......
  • MANUFACTURING SOVEREIGN STATE MOOTNESS.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 1, October 2021
    • October 1, 2021
    ...318 (1974) (per curiam). (29.) Id. at 318-19. (30.) CHEMERINSKY, supra note 15, [section] 2.5.4. (31.) United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 633 (32.) Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Env't Servs., Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 189 (2000) (second alteration in original) (quoting United ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT