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No violation of the Sherman Act can be predicated upon mere attempts to influence the passage or enforcement of laws. The Act forbids only those trade restraints and monopolization's that are created, or attempted, by the acts of individuals or combinations of individuals or corporations. Accordingly, where a restraint upon trade or monopolization is the result of valid governmental action, as opposed to private action, no violation of the Act can be made out.
Respondents filed suit on behalf of truck operators and their trade association against petitioners, 44 eastern railroads, an association of railroad presidents and others. The complaint charged that petitioner railroads had conspired to restrain trade and monopolize the long-distance freight business by conducting a publicity campaign against the truckers, in violation of 15 U.S.C.S. §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. The publicity was designed to foster the adoption of laws and law enforcement practices destructive of the trucking business and to create an atmosphere of distaste for the truckers among the general public. The district court ruled that petitioners’ publicity campaign violated 15 U.S.C.S. §§ 1, 2 of the Sherman Act while the actions of respondent truckers had not. The decision was affirmed by the appellate court. Petitioners appealed.
By conducting a publicity campaign against the truckers, did the petitioners violate the Sherman Act?
Reversing the lower courts' findings of a violation, the Court held there was no Sherman Act violation. The Court characterized the nature of the case as a "no-holds-barred fight" between two industries seeking to control a profitable source of income. Each group appeared to have utilized all the political power it could muster in an attempt to bring about the passage of laws that would help it and injure the other. These activities fell within the freedom to petition protected by the First Amendment.