Vendo Co. v. Lektro-Vend Corp.
433 U.S. 623 (1977)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Vendo Co. v. Lektro-Vend Corp., 433 U.S. 623 (1977)

Vendo Co. v. Lektro-Vend Corp.

No. 76-156

Argued January 19, 1977

Decided June 29, 1977

433 U.S. 623

Syllabus

Petitioner vending machine manufacturer acquired most of the assets of another vending machine manufacturing company controlled by respondent Stoner and his family. As part of the acquisition agreement, the latter company undertook to refrain from owning or managing any business engaged in the manufacture or sale of vending machines, and respondent Stoner, who was employed by petitioner as a consultant under a 5-year contract, agreed not to compete with petitioner in the manufacture of such machines during the term of his contract and for five years thereafter. Subsequently, petitioner sued respondents (Stoner, the company which he and his family controlled, and another corporation with which he had a relationship) in an Illinois state court for breach of the noncompetition covenants. Shortly thereafter, respondents sued petitioner in Federal District Court, alleging that it had violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act in that the covenant against competition was an unreasonable restraint of trade. After protracted litigation in the state court action, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a judgment in petitioner's favor in an amount exceeding $7 million. Then in the antitrust action, which, in the meantime, had lain "dormant," the District Court granted respondents' motion for a preliminary injunction against collection of the Illinois judgment, holding that § 16 of the Clayton Act (which authorizes any person to seek injunctive relief against violations of the antitrust laws) constituted an "expressly authorized" exception to the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283 (which prohibits a federal court from enjoining state court proceedings "except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments"), and further found that an injunction was necessary to protect the court's jurisdiction within the meaning of that exception in § 283 by preserving a case or controversy, since the state collection efforts would eliminate the two corporate respondents (which would then be controlled by petitioner) as plaintiffs in the federal suit. The Court of Appeals affirmed, also finding that § 16 of the Clayton Act was an express

Page 433 U. S. 624

exception to § 2283, but not reaching the issue of whether an injunction was necessary to protect the District Court's jurisdiction.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded. Pp. 433 U. S. 630-643; 433 U. S. 643-645.

545 F.2d 1050, reversed and remanded.

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, joined by MR. JUSTICE STEWART and MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concluded that the District Court's preliminary injunction violated the Anti-Injunction Act. Pp. 433 U. S. 630-643.

(a) Having been enacted long after the Anti-Injunction Act, § 16 of the Clayton Act, on its face, is far from an express exception to the Anti-Injunction Act, and may be fairly read as virtually incorporating the prohibitions of that Act. Pp. 433 U. S. 631-632.

(b) The test as to whether an Act of Congress qualifies as an "expressly authorized" exception to the Anti-Injunction Act is whether the

"Act of Congress, clearly creating a federal right or remedy enforceable in a federal court of equity, could be given its intended scope only by the stay of a state court proceeding."

Mitchum v. Foster,407 U. S. 225, 407 U. S. 238. Here, while the private action conferred by § 16 of the Clayton Act meets the first part of the test in that such an action may be brought only in a federal court, it does not meet the second part of the test, since, as is demonstrated by § 16's legislative history suggesting that § 16 was merely intended to extend to private citizens the right to enjoin antitrust violations, § 16 is not an "Act of Congress [which] could be given its intended scope only by the stay of a state court proceeding." Mitchum, supra, distinguished. Pp. 433 U. S. 632-635.

(c) To hold that § 16 could be given its "intended scope" only by allowing an injunction against a pending state court action would completely eviscerate the Anti-Injunction Act, because this would mean that virtually all federal statutes authorizing injunctive relief would be exceptions to that Act. While § 16 embodies an important congressional policy favoring private enforcement of the antitrust laws, the importance of the policy to be "protected" by an injunction under § 16 does not control for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act, since the prohibitions of that Act exist separate and apart from the traditional principles of equity and comity that determine whether or not the state proceeding can be enjoined. Pp. 433 U. S. 635-639.

(d) For an Act countenancing a federal injunction to come within the "expressly authorized" exception to the Anti-Injunction Act, it must necessarily interact with, or focus upon, a state judicial proceeding, and § 16 of the Clayton Act is not such an Act. Pp. 433 U. S. 640 641.

Page 433 U. S. 625

(e) The District Court's finding that the injunction was "necessary in aid of its jurisdiction" within the meaning of that exception to the Anti-Injunction Act is supported neither by precedent nor by the factual premises upon which such finding was based. Although such exception may be fairly read as incorporating cases where the federal court has obtained jurisdiction over a res prior to the state court action, here both the federal and state actions are in personam actions, which traditionally may proceed concurrently, without interference from either court, and an injunction to "preserve" a case or controversy does not fit within the "necessary in aid of its jurisdiction" exception. It does not appear that, even if the two corporate respondents ceased to litigate the federal action, respondent Stoner would lose his standing to vindicate his rights, or that the two corporate defendants would necessarily be removed from the action. Pp. 433 U. S. 641-643.

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, concluded that, although § 16 of the Clayton Act may be an "expressly authorized" exception to the Anti-Injunction Act in limited circumstances where the state proceedings are part of a "pattern of baseless, repetitive claims" being used as an anticompetitive device, all the traditional prerequisites for equitable relief are satisfied, and the only way to give the antitrust laws their intended scope is by staying the state proceedings, California Motor Transport Co. v. Trucking Unlimited,404 U. S. 508, the District Court failed properly to apply the California Motor Transport rule, because it did not and could not find the state litigation to be part of a "pattern of baseless, repetitive claims" being used, in and of itself, as an anticompetitive device, and that therefore § 16 did not itself authorize the District Court's injunction. Pp. 433 U. S. 643-645.

REHNQUIST, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion, in which STEWART and POWELL, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 433 U. S. 643. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 433 U. S. 645.

Page 433 U. S. 626

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