The Supreme Court yesterday sent back to lower courts in California an antitrust case involving the McClatchy Newspapers and the company's method of assigning geographic areas of responsibility to newstand distributors.
The court told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the McClatchy case in light of a decision handed down last week giving manufacturers new authority to control the resale of their products by retailers.
The justices refused to hear an appeal by a former newsstand distributor who claimed that the McClatchy Newspaper had fired him when he resisted their efforts to split his area of responsibility and assign part of it to another distributor. He sought reinstatement of a $63,000 award granted by a Californian trial court as compensation for what a jury ruled was, in effect, a sale of a business. The circuit court had struck down the award.
In three other cases, the court refused to hear an appeal charging S. S. Kresge Co., now K Mart Corp., with antitrust violations, let stand a lower court ruling on branch banking and stepped into the controversy over the withdrawal of natural gas supplies from the interstate market.
The justices let stand a decision by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals that Kresge is innocent of antitrust violations even though it prohibits price competition between its K mart discount outlets and K mart Food stores.
The Supreme Court also refused to disturb a lower court ruling that a national bank that opened a separate trust office was engaging in branch banking.
The lower court ordered Mercantile Trust Co. of St. Louis to close a suburban trust office because Missouri law forbids its banks to operate branches.
The court also agreed to decide, at a later date, whether the owners of gas-producing property are bound by commitments of former lessees who sold the gas to interstate customers or if they are free to redirect the supplies within the more lucrative intrastate market.
The appeal was filled by the Federal Power Commission, El Paso Natural Gas Co., which had handled the interstate sales, and the state of California, whose residents had been receiving the gas under two leases. They are aligned against gas property owners, which include Southland Royalty Co., Exxon Corp., Texaco Inc. and Mobil Oil Corp.
A lower court ruled that the property owners did not need FPC permission to halt the interstate sales when the leases expired in 1975, because the lessees had the power to commit only the gas produced during the years the lease was inforce.