Friday, January 17, 2014

Federal Trade Commission v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association case brief summary

Federal Trade Commission v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association case brief summary

The SCTLA criminal defense lawyers organized a boycott of indigent defense work in D.C. in order to get their hourly fees increased (and were successful).

Disregarding First Amendment concerns, the Court noted that most economic boycotts have an expressive component and a First Amendment exception would swallow the rule. Even if the boycott was beneficial, it would still be per se illegal, just as stunt flying in congested areas is illegal though often harmless.

  • The Court also distinguishes this from Noerr, where railroads were permitted to campaign for a legislative restraint on trade in the trucking industry, because here the restraint on trade (the boycott) was the means, not the ends.
  • The Court distinguishes this from NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., where it permitted a boycott of white merchants in Mississippi, because the campaign was seeking constitutionally entitled rights, not to destroy legitimate competition.
  • Administrative convenience is sufficiently strong to justify the per se rules.
  • Although it was not mentioned by the Court, there was no efficiency justification offered that might allow it to be considered in the wake of Broadcast Music, Inc.
  • FTC was actually fairly sympathetic to the defendants. They only brought the action as a civil claim and only requested an injunction against future behavior.
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