Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379 (1953)

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Author: Justice Frankfurter

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Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379 (1953)

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, whom MR. JUSTICE JACKSON and MR. JUSTICE MINTON join, dissenting.

This case presents one of those clear situations where due regard for the canons governing the exercise of the Court’s certiorari jurisdiction calls for dismissal of the writ as improvidently granted.

1. Whatever view one may take of the scope of the venue requirement of § 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 15, it cannot be doubted that that section precludes the Georgia Commissioner of Insurance from being made a defendant in this suit unless he "resides or is found or has an agent" in the Southern District of Florida, or has consented, by formal appearance or by some other form of waiver, to be sued there.

He has neither consented nor made such a waiver. On the contrary, he has stood on the right Congress gave him and has resisted his amenability to suit in the Southern District of Florida.

2. The only basis, on the record before us, for the claim that § 4 subjected the Georgia Commissioner to suit is the suggestion that, since the complaint charges a conspiracy between him and co-conspirators who reside in the Southern District of Florida, the latter thereby became his "agents" within the meaning of § 4 of the Clayton Act. The Court now characterizes this contention as "frivolous." Presumably that is why this issue was not brought here, and the grant of the writ was restricted to question 1.{1} 345 U.S. 933.

3. If we now had to decide whether a co-conspirator as such is an "agent" for purposes of venue under 15 U.S.C. § 15, it cannot be doubted that we would have to conclude that the district judge was right in finding that the Georgia Commissioner could not be kept in the suit. Once it is clear that the Georgia defendant has the right to be let out, all discussion of the limits of mandamus becomes irrelevant and gratuitous. Obviously a judge cannot be mandamused to put a proposed defendant into a litigation when, as a matter of unquestioned law, he should be let out.

4. Since the mandamus question would not have been brought here had the volume of business that confronts the Court permitted the record to be examined in passing on the petition for certiorari as it now has been, we should not feel ourselves bound to discuss that question after we have had the kind of careful consideration that is given a case after argument.{2}

5. It is a too easy view that, now that the case is here, we might as well dispose of it on the assumption on which it was brought here. The short but important answer is that which was made by Chief Justice Taft on behalf of the whole Court in Layne & Bowler Corp. v. Western Well Works, Inc., 261 U.S. 387, 393.

If it be suggested that as much effort and time as we have given to the consideration of the alleged conflict would have enabled us to dispose of the case before us on the merits, the answer is that it is very important that we be consistent in not granting the writ of certiorari except in cases involving principles the settlement of which is of importance to the public, as distinguished from that of the parties, and in cases where there is a real and embarrassing conflict of opinion and authority between the Circuit Courts of Appeal. The present case certainly comes under neither head.{3}

The case before us is more compelling for dismissal, since the question on which we granted certiorari does not here arise.

6. Discussion of mandamus in this case is not even useful as dicta for future guidance on an important issue. The Court’s opinion does not help decision when a party is dismissed from a litigation for reasons not as obviously compelling as those in this case. It necessarily leaves open the question whether such a ruling by a district judge may be reviewed by mandamus, without awaiting the completion of the entire litigation, in circumstances where postponement of review would involve a protracted trial, entailing heavy costs and great inconvenience. Compare Ex parte Skinner & Eddy Corp., 265 U.S. 86, 95-96, with Ex parte Chicago, R.I. & P. R. Co., 255 U.S. 273. This Court ought not to be called upon to hold that, where a district judge refused to entertain a "frivolous" claim, mandamus will not issue to compel him to entertain it. But that is the only holding of the Court’s decision today.

1. The questions the petition for certiorari presented were as follows:

1. Is mandamus an appropriate remedy to vacate the order of severance and transfer as an unwarranted renunciation of jurisdiction which would compel needless duplicity of trials and appeals to enforce the right to a single trial against all defendants in a proper forum?

2. Where venue is properly laid in a district in which a nonresident conspirator is "found" and has agents within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. § 15, is mandamus appropriate to vacate the order of severance and transfer as being in excess of the power of transfer conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a)?

3. Is a nonresident conspirator "found" for venue purposes within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. § 15 when, although served with process in another district in the same state, venue is laid in a district where he has, in person when physically present and at other times through the agency of his resident co-conspirators, engaged in the business of the conspiracy in violation of the antitrust laws to the substantial injury of plaintiff’s business?

4. Are the resident co-conspirators of a nonresident conspirator his agents for venue purposes within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. § 15 when venue is laid in a district where he has, through the agency of his resident co-conspirators, engaged in the business of the conspiracy in violation of the antitrust laws to the substantial injury of plaintiff’s business?

2. It should be noted that, during the last Term, the Court disposed of 1,286 cases.

3. The case of Hammerstein v. Superior Court, 341 U.S. 491, is a very recent instance of where the Court, after argument, took a more careful look at a grant of certiorari and dismissed the writ as improvidently granted.

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Chicago: Frankfurter, "Frankfurter, J., Dissenting," Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379 (1953) in 346 U.S. 379 346 U.S. 386–346 U.S. 388. Original Sources, accessed October 3, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L94C6LGAF6ALWP3.

MLA: Frankfurter. "Frankfurter, J., Dissenting." Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379 (1953), in 346 U.S. 379, pp. 346 U.S. 386–346 U.S. 388. Original Sources. 3 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L94C6LGAF6ALWP3.

Harvard: Frankfurter, 'Frankfurter, J., Dissenting' in Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379 (1953). cited in 1953, 346 U.S. 379, pp.346 U.S. 386–346 U.S. 388. Original Sources, retrieved 3 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L94C6LGAF6ALWP3.