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U.S. Supreme Court

Eastern R. Conference v. Noerr Motors, 365 U.S. 127 (1961)

Eastern Railroad Presidents Conference

v. Noerr Motor Freight, Inc.

No. 50

Argued December 12-13, 1960

Decided February 20, 1961

365 U.S. 127


A group of trucking companies and their trade association sued under §4 of the Clayton Act for treble damages and injunctive relief against a group of railroads, a railroad association and a public relations firm, charging that the defendants had conspired to restrain trade in, and monopolize, the long-distance freight business, in violation of §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. They alleged, inter alia, that the railroads had engaged the public relations firm to conduct a publicity campaign against the truckers designed to foster the adoption and retention of laws and law enforcement practices destructive of the trucking business, to create an atmosphere of distaste for the truckers among the general public, and to impair the relationships existing between the truckers and their customers. After a trial, the District Court entered a judgment awarding damages to the plaintiffs and enjoining the practices complained of.

Held: The judgment is reversed. Pp. 365 U. S. 128-145.

(a) No violation of the Sherman Act can be predicated upon mere attempts to influence the passage or enforcement of laws. Pp. 365 U. S. 135-136.

(b) The Sherman Act does not prohibit two or more persons from associating together in an attempt to persuade the legislature or the executive to take particular action with respect to a law that would produce a restraint or monopoly; and it does not apply to the activities of these railroads, at least insofar as those activities comprised mere solicitation of governmental action with respect to the passage and enforcement of laws. Pp. 365 U. S. 136-138.

(c) At least insofar as the railroads' campaign was directed toward obtaining governmental action, it was not made violative of the Sherman Act by any anticompetitive purpose it may have had, such as a purpose to destroy the truckers as competitors for the long-distance freight business. Pp. 365 U. S. 138-140. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 365 U. S. 128

(d) Nor was the railroads' campaign made violative of the Sherman Act by their use of the so-called third-party technique, whereby propaganda actually circulated by a party in interest is given the appearance of being the spontaneously expressed views of independent persons and civic groups. Pp. 365 U. S. 140-142.

(e) A different conclusion is not required by the finding of the District Court that the railroads' campaign was intended to, and did in fact, injure the truckers in their relationships with the public and with their customers. Pp. 365 U. S. 142-145.

273 F.2d 218, reversed.

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