Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. P Civ. 76-9 - Robert D. Morgan, Judge.
Fairchild, Chief Judge, Pell, Circuit Judge, and Foreman, District Judge.*fn*
The district court dismissed Count I of plaintiffs' complaint (alleging federal antitrust violations and invoking 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, 2, 15 and 26) on the authority of Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, 87 L. Ed. 315, 63 S. Ct. 307 (1943); and Eastern Railroad Presidents Conference v. Noerr Motor Freight, Inc., 365 U.S. 127, 5 L. Ed. 2d 464, 81 S. Ct. 523 (1961), and their progeny.*fn1 Count II of the complaint (alleging deprivations of federal rights under color of state law and invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331(a) and 1343) was dismissed on the grounds that one defendant was not a "person" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and that the remaining defendants were protected by a previous state court adjudication. This appeal followed.
We assume, of course, the truth of the well-pleaded facts alleged in plaintiffs' complaint, which are, in material part, as follows: Plaintiffs are five golf professionals, accredited as such by the Professional Golfers' Association. Defendant Pleasure Driveway and Park District of Peoria (the Park District) is a unit of local government within the meaning of Article VII, § 1 of the Illinois Constitution, deriving its powers from various Illinois statutes which will be referred to hereinafter. The Park District owns and operates five municipal golf courses in Peoria, Illinois. Plaintiffs were, for varying periods aggregating 83 years, employed by the Park District to perform combined duties as golf course managers, greenskeepers, and golf professionals at the Park District's courses. Each plaintiff, while so employed, was granted a concession to operate a proprietary retail business (pro shop) selling golfing equipment at his golf course. In this proprietary function each plaintiff competed with each of the others, and between them they constituted the entire public market in Peoria for high quality "pro line" equipment. Eleven individual defendants are and at pertinent times were the President and members of the Park District's Board of Trustees, the Board Attorney, and administrative staff members of the Park District. Also defendants are Golf Shop Management, Inc., the current concessionaire of the pro shops at all five courses, and Gordon Ramsey, the concessionaire's sole incorporator. For present purposes, these last two defendants may be treated together (GSM).
On January 19, 1974, the Park District terminated plaintiffs' concession rights, and on February 20 of that year the Park District terminated plaintiffs' employment. On January 23, 1974, GSM was awarded pro shop concession rights at all of the Park District's five golf courses. The reasons for these events, and the manner in which they came about, are at the heart of this lawsuit.
The 1970 Illinois Constitution, Article IX, § 5, provided for the abolition of personal property taxes and authorized the Illinois General Assembly to provide replacement revenue sources for local government units. The General Assembly has not exercised its power to create substitute revenues for local park districts. These facts, which we may and do judicially notice, apparently led the Park District in 1973 to consider the possibilities of obtaining greater revenues from its golf course pro shop concessions.
Plaintiffs had, for some time, been paying small concession fees; each paid only $600 yearly, except for one who was assigned only a nine-hole golf course and who paid only $300. In the late summer and fall of 1973, the terms of the concession agreements for that calendar year were revised in a confusing and apparently less than harmonious series of negotiations, with the result that plaintiffs agreed to pay 1 1/2% of their gross receipts as a fee.
Also during the fall of 1973, GSM and members of the Park District Board and Staff agreed that GSM would make an economically unrealistic "sham" proposal, which would not be performed, to pay $90,000 a year for concession rights at the five golf courses.*fn2 Public bidding specifications tailored exclusively for GSM's "sham" proposal were designed and advertised, and on December 17, 1973, GSM formalized its $90,000 proposal as a bid. A Park District Board meeting scheduled for December 19 for the purpose of acting on received bids was never held.
Instead, in the language of the complaint,
from, and after, December 17, 1973, GSM's $90,000 per year proposal . . . was coercively laced with the threat of non-renewal of plaintiffs' 1973 "leases" and summary termination of their proprietary business rights and used to induce them to raise, fix and maintain their retail, rental and service prices and pay a 5% of gross concession or "lease" fee to the PARK DISTRICT.
[The Park District defendants] used the GSM proposal, with GSM agreement, to coerce plaintiffs into a 5% sales taxing and price raising/fixing scheme.
On January 16, 1974 the PARK BOARD declared that unless plaintiffs agreed to raise their resale, rental and service prices and pay 5% of the gross receipts before 8 a.m., Saturday, January 19, 1974, their proprietary concession rights would be awarded to GSM, Inc.
The plaintiffs and each of them were not summarily terminated from their proprietary business and local governmental employment rights because of the expiration of their 1973 "leases" but because, on January 19, 1974, they refused to be coercively induced into levying unlawful 5% sales tax levies on their business consumers and because they refused to contract, combine or conspire with the effect of raising, fixing and maintaining their proprietary resale, rental and service prices contrary to Illinois and Federal antitrust laws.
The complaint also alleges that plaintiffs, even after their proprietary terminations, remained in possession of the pro shops, that they litigated the Park District's state court forcible entry and detainer suit, and that this assertion of their "rights" was the cause of their employment terminations. The Illinois Appellate Court determined that plaintiffs' defenses in that suit were not germane to the narrow question of their right to possess the pro shops and that plaintiffs' rights of possession ended at the expiration of their concession agreements on December 31, 1973. Pleasure Driveway and Park District of Peoria v. Kurek, 27 Ill. App.3d 60, 325 N.E.2d 650 (1975). The Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. A subsequent state court damages action by the Park District sought redress for plaintiffs' allegedly wrongful holding over of possession of the pro shops, and a judgment in the Park District's favor in the amount of $127,605 is apparently pending on appeal.
As a result of the defendants' wrongful conduct, the golfing public of Peoria is alleged to have lost the benefits of competition, suffered increased prices and all of the evils of monopolistic practices without any corresponding governmental or other benefits. Substantial injury to plaintiffs is claimed. Count I (antitrust) seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against all defendants and treble damages from all defendants except the Park District. Count II (civil rights) seeks damages from all defendants except GSM.
We turn to the question of whether Count I of the complaint fails to allege a cause of action under the antitrust laws. The standard we must apply is settled beyond dispute: "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). This rule has particular force in this case, where plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint by adding a third count, which refined their antitrust theories and made some additional factual allegations, was denied by the district judge in a short decision and order.*fn3
Before considering the difficult questions which this case requires us to answer, we note briefly several background matters. First, of course, we intimate no views whatsoever on the likelihood that plaintiffs will be able to prove the allegations of the complaint.*fn4 Also, the district court's judgment rests solely on the conclusion that the involvement of governmental action takes the case outside the scope of the antitrust laws. Without the benefit of a factual record, the district court's views, or ...