Civil Procedure Keyed to Friedenthal
Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover
Respondent has the exclusive right granted by movie distributors to first run pictures in the San Bernardino area. Petitioner, which had built a drive-in theatre 11 miles away, notified Respondent that it considered bringing an antitrust suit against Respondent. Respondent then brought a Complaint for Declaratory Relief in which it sought two things: (i) a declaration that the grant of clearance between the two theatres was not in violation of the antitrust laws and (ii) pending resolution of the lawsuit, an injunction to prevent Petitioner from bringing an antitrust lawsuit. Petitioner counterclaimed denying the threats and claimed the clearances were unreasonable. Petitioner also alleged a conspiracy existed between Respondent and the distributors which violated antitrust laws and asked for treble damages. Respondent also demanded a jury trial. The District Court viewed the Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and the conspiracy claim as equitable and therefore thought they co uld be tried by the court before going to the jury on the antitrust charges. The Court of Appeals stated that the question of whether the right to a jury trial existed was to be judged by Respondent’s complaint read as a whole. It held that it was not an abuse of discretion for the district judge to try the equitable case first even though this might, through collateral estoppel, prevent a full jury trial of the counterclaim which would be as effectively stopped by an equity injunction.
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