Allied Tube & Conduit Corp. v. Indian Head, Inc.

486 U.S. 492 (1988)


The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a private, voluntary organization with more than 31,500 individual and group members representing industry, labor, academia, insurers, organized medicine, firefighters, and government. It publishes product standards and codes related to fire protection through a process known as 'consensus standard making.' NFPA publishes the National Electrical Code (Code), which establishes product and performance requirements for the design and installation of electrical wiring systems. Revised every three years, the Code is the most influential electrical code in the nation. The Code is a defacto standard accepted by the vast majority of those in industry, and government. The Code permitted using electrical conduit made of steel. Indian (P) began to offer plastic conduit made of polyvinyl chloride. There was a concern that during fires in high-rise buildings, polyvinyl chloride conduit might burn and emit toxic fumes. P initiated a proposal to include polyvinyl chloride conduit as an approved type of electrical conduit in the 1981 edition of the Code. D was the Nation's largest producer of steel conduit. D organized a cabal by packing the upcoming annual meeting with new Association members whose only function would be to vote against the polyvinyl chloride proposal. D recruited 230 persons to join the Association and to attend the annual meeting to vote against the proposal. D and the other steel interests also paid over $100,000 for the membership, registration, and attendance expenses of these voters. The proposal was rejected and returned to committee by a vote of 394 to 390. P appealed the membership's vote to the Association's Board of Directors, but the Board denied the appeal on the ground that, although the Association's rules had been circumvented, they had not been violated. P sued Ds alleging that they had unreasonably restrained trade in the electrical conduit market in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act. The jury found for P but the District Court then granted a judgment n.o.v. for D reasoning that Noerr immunity applied because the Association was 'akin to a legislature' and because D, 'by the use of methods consistent with acceptable standards of political action, genuinely intended to influence the Association with respect to the National Electrical Code. The court of appeals reversed. It rejected the argument that the Association should be treated as a 'quasi-legislative' body because legislatures routinely adopt the Code and the argument that efforts to influence the Code were immune under Noerr as indirect attempts to influence state and local governments. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.