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Amarel v. Connell

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

June 13, 1996, Argued, Submitted, San Francisco, California ; December 2, 1996, Filed

Nos. 94-15803, 95-16121

Opinion

 [*1499]  OPINION

HAWKINS, Circuit Judge:

This appeal arose out of a complex, lengthy, and bitterly contested antitrust suit. Plaintiffs-appellants, independent California rice farmers, appeal the district court's March 1994 judgment for defendants-appellees, a rice exporter, its president, and its lawyer. That judgment was based in part on a jury verdict for defendants as to plaintiffs' Section 2 Sherman Act conspiracy claims and violations of the California Unfair Practices Act, and in part on the district court's judgment as a matter of law for defendants as to plaintiffs' claims for conspiracy to restrain trade in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act and California's Cartwright Act.

The litigants raise numerous procedural and substantive issues on appeal. Defendants insist plaintiffs lack standing to maintain this antitrust action. Plaintiffs [**3]  allege several instances of trial error, challenge the district court's rulings involving antitrust immunity under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, and argue that it was error for the district court to enter judgment as a matter of law as to the restraint of trade claims on which the jury was divided. Plaintiffs also appeal the district court's post-trial award to defendants of nearly $ 100,000 in costs.

We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. 2

 [*1500] FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

I. The Rice Industry

A. Crisis in the World Rice Market

The marketplace can be a harsh teacher and it certainly was here.  [**4]  These events have their beginning in 1980, when a worldwide rice shortage drove prices on the international rice market to record highs. The following year, many rice farmers reacted to these abnormally high prices by substantially increasing rice production. This, in turn, resulted in an oversupply of rice and the collapse of world rice prices in 1981.

The 1980 shortage was especially severe in the Republic of Korea ("Korea"), which had experienced a domestic rice crop failure as a consequence of bad weather. To meet domestic demand, Korea needed to import large quantities of rice. In light of the Korean shortage, the United States agreed to the export of one million tons of rice from Japan to Korea. That decision invoked an emergency exception to a U.S.-Japan bilateral agreement, executed earlier in 1980, which prohibited Japan from "dumping" rice on markets to which U.S. companies exported rice.

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102 F.3d 1494 *; 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 34400 **; 1996-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) P71,638; 97 Daily Journal DAR 569; 45 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 1390; 36 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1

J. WILLIAM AMAREL; JACK E. CARRICO and PAMELA FAWN CARRICO; REASON FARMS; STARKEY RANCH, INC.; DANLEY BROS., INC.; RODRICK RANCH, INC.; ALLEN ETCHEPARE; A. CHARLES ETCHEVARRY; SOHNREY RANCHES; JAY DEE GARR; MAXWELL SPYRES; MORLEY GREEN, aka NOR-CAL BROKERAGE; YUBA FARMS CO.; JOHNSON EQUITIES, INC.; LAMBIRTH, C. FARMS, INC.; MCKNIGHT, J.H. RANCH, INC.; LARRY E. MIDDLETON; HENRY C. MOORE, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. GROVER CONNELL; CONNELL RICE AND SUGAR CO.; JOSEPH L. ALIOTO, Defendants-Appellees.

Subsequent History:  [**1]  As Amended January 15, 1997.

Prior History: Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. Nos. CV-89-00558-BAC, CV-89-00558-VRW. Barbara A. Caulfield, District Judge, Presiding in 94-15803. Vaughn R. Walker, District Judge, Presiding in 95-16121.

Original Opinion Previously Reported at: 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 30966.

Disposition: Affirmed the judgment for defendants on plaintiffs' monopolization claims under Section 2 of the Sherman Act and the California Unfair Practices Act. Reversed the judgment for defendants on plaintiffs' restraint of trade claims under Section 1 of the Sherman Act and the California Cartwright Act, and remanded the case for a new trial solely on the restraint of trade claims. Reversed the district court's award of costs and direct the district court to await resolution of plaintiffs' restraint of trade claims before determining whether an award of costs is appropriate.

CORE TERMS

rice, plaintiffs', defendants', prices, district court, antitrust, farmers, costs, cooperatives, sham, restraint of trade, anticompetitive, lawsuit, competitors, cross-examination, tons, monopolize, monopoly, anti trust law, predatory, Sherman Act, matter of law, time limit, per ton, conspiracy, exhibits, allegations, boycott, markets, export

Antitrust & Trade Law, Private Actions, Standing, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Justiciability, Clayton Act, Remedies, Damages, Regulated Practices, Prioritizing Resources & Organization for Intellectual Property Act, Injury in Fact, Commercial Law (UCC), Sales (Article 2), Preliminary Considerations, Torts, Elements, Causation, Price Fixing & Restraints of Trade, Vertical Restraints, Price Fixing, Business & Corporate Law, Cooperatives, Abuse of Discretion, Judicial Officers, Judges, Discretionary Powers, Reversible Errors, Governments, Courts, Judges, Appellate Jurisdiction, Interlocutory Orders, Authority to Adjudicate, Evidence, Admissibility, Expert Witnesses, Pleadings, Amendment of Pleadings, Trials, Discovery & Disclosure, Disclosure, Mandatory Disclosures, Types of Evidence, Demonstrative Evidence, Documentary Evidence, Summaries, Writings, Criminal Law & Procedure, Reversible Error, Evidence, Expert Witnesses, Credibility of Witnesses, Impeachment, Procedural Matters, Rulings on Evidence, Ultimate Issue, Judgment as Matter of Law, Exemptions & Immunities, Noerr-Pennington Doctrine, Scope, Sham Exception, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, Sherman Act, Claims, Monopolies & Monopolization, Attempts to Monopolize, Elements, Sherman Act, Conspiracy to Monopolize, Tying Arrangements, Clayton Act, Exclusive & Reciprocal Dealing, Exclusive Dealing, Horizontal Refusals to Deal, Cartels & Horizontal Restraints, Nonprice Restraints, Costs & Attorney Fees, Costs, Energy & Utilities Law, Taxation Issues