School of Law News
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Reverses Antitrust Immunity Decision
Arguments made by Professor Robert Fellmeth in a special hearing held at the University of San Diego in March were vindicated Monday when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unexpectedly reversed its June decision that had initially rejected his assertions.
In claiming that the California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC) improperly colluded with rental car companies to pass tourism fees onto customers, Fellmeth’s argument was echoed in the Ninth Circuit’s November reversal, a decision that lifted antitrust immunity on the CTTC and allowed the case to go forward.
In March, the University of San Diego hosted a special session where Fellmeth, on behalf of the plaintiffs, San Diego consumer advocate Michael Shames and businessman Gary Gramkow, claimed that agreements made between the CTTC and the rental car industry in 2006 constituted illegal price-fixing under the Sherman Act and that the district court erred in granting the CTTC state action immunity from antitrust liability. In June, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.
In reversing its decision six months later, Judge Michael Daly Hawkins said the “state action immunity” doctrine did not apply to the CTTC because there was no indication that legislators authorized the CTTC to establish regulations or a monopoly that interfered with normal industry competition, the same argument Fellmeth contended. After filing a petition for a hearing en banc and having two outside groups, Public Citizen and the American Antitrust Institute, file briefs in support of their case, Fellmeth and the plaintiffs were surprised by the reversal after hearing nothing from the court after the initial decision.
University of San Diego School of Law Professor Robert C. Fellmeth is founder and executive director of the Center for Public Interest Law and its Children's Advocacy Institute. He is the holder of the Price Chair in Public Interest Law at the USD School of Law, one of two such chairs in the nation. In 1997-98, he was honored for his "outstanding, balanced, cumulative career contributions supporting the mission and goals of USD."
A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, Fellmeth was one of the original "Nader's Raiders," organizing the student groups in 1968 and directing the Nader Congress Project in 1970-72. As a deputy district attorney and Assistant U.S. Attorney in San Diego from 1973-81, he litigated 22 antitrust actions and founded the nation's first antitrust unit in a district attorney's office. Click here to read Professor Fellmeth’s full biography.
About the Center for Public Interest Law
Founded in 1980, USD's Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) serves as an academic center of research, learning and advocacy in administrative law; teaches direct lawyering skills in public interest law; represents the interests of the disadvantaged or underrepresented in state regulatory proceedings; and attempts to make the regulatory functions of state government more efficient and visible by serving as a public monitor of state agencies.
About the University of San Diego School of Law
The University of San Diego School of Law is a center of academic excellence focused on preparing its students for legal practice in the new century. One of the most selective law schools in the country, the School of Law’s nationally recognized faculty create a demanding, yet welcoming environment that emphasizes individualized education. USD law school graduates consistently score higher than the state average on the California Bar Exam and go on to practice law throughout the country and abroad, forming an influential network of alumni. The USD School of Law is one of only 81 law schools in the country to have a chapter of the Order of the Coif, the most distinguished rank of American law schools. The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.
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