KAISER ALUMIUM V. BONJORNO, 494 U. S. 827 (1990)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kaiser Alumium v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827 (1990)

Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation v. Bonjorno

Nos. 88-1595, 88-1771

Argued Dec. 43, 1989

Decided April 17, 1990

494 U.S. 827


Respondents (Bonjorno), the sole stockholders of a now defunct aluminum pipe fabrication company, brought suit against petitioners (Kaiser) in the District Court, alleging that Kaiser had monopolized the market for such pipe in violation of the Sherman Act. Judgment for Bonjorno on a jury verdict and damages award was entered on August 22, 1979. However, the District Court found that this judgment was not supported by the evidence, and held a limited retrial on the issue of damages, which resulted in a jury award of $9,567,939 on December 2, 1981. After judgment was entered on December 4, 1981, the District Court granted a partial judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Court of Appeals, inter alia, vacated the latter judgment and reinstated and affirmed the December 4 judgment, issuing its mandate in 1986. The postjudgment interest statute in effect when Bonjorno's complaint was in filed provided that "interest shall be calculated from the date of the entry of judgment, at the rate allowed by State law." 28 U.S.C. § 1961 (1976 ed.). In 1982, while the appeal was pending, an amended § 1961 went into effect, which specified that "interest shall be calculated from the date of the entry of the judgment, at a rate" based on the price for United States Treasury bills settled "immediately prior to the date of judgment." 28 U.S.C. § 1961 (1982 ed.). The District Court held that § 1961 required interest to be calculated from December 2, 1981, the date of the damages verdict. However, it rejected Bonjorno's argument that Bradley v. Richmond School Bd., 416 U. S. 696 -- which held that courts are to apply the law in effect at the time of decision except where retrospective application would result in manifest injustice to one of the parties or where there is clear congressional intent to the contrary -- required that the amended version of the statute be applied to determine the applicable interest rate. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's determination of the date from which interest should be calculated, but reversed on the issue of which version of § 1961 applied.

Page 494 U. S. 828


1. Postjudgment interest properly runs from the date of the entry of judgment, not the date of the verdict. Both versions of § 1961 refer specifically to the "date of judgment," which indicates a date certain, and there is no legislative history that would indicate a contrary congressional intent. Pp. 494 U. S. 834-835.

2. Interest should be calculated from December 4, 1981, rather than August 22, 1979, the date of the District Court's legally insufficient judgment. The purpose of postjudgment interest is to compensate the successful plaintiff for being deprived of compensation for the loss from the time between the ascertainment of the damage and the payment by the defendant. It would be counterintuitive to believe that Congress intended interest to be calculated from a judgment on damages that was not supported by the evidence, since such damages have not been "ascertained" in any meaningful way. Pp. 494 U. S. 835-836.

3. Amended § 1961 is not applicable to judgments entered before its effective date. The plain language of both versions of § 1961 evidences clear congressional intent that the interest rate for any particular judgment is to be determined as of the date of the judgment, and that a single applicable rate of interest is to be applied to the judgment for the duration of the interest accrual period. In addition, Congress delayed the effective date of the amended version by six months to permit courts and attorneys to prepare for the change in the law, and, therefore, at the very least, the amended version cannot be applied before its effective date. Implicit in the amended provision's legislative history -- which indicates that Congress wished to lessen the incentives of losing defendants to take frivolous appeals in order to collect interest at the prevailing market rates while paying plaintiffs at the lower state-set rates -- is the understanding that, on the date of judgment, expectations with respect to liability would be fixed so that the parties could make informed decisions about the cost and potential benefits of paying the judgment or seeking appeal. This Court need not reconcile the apparent tension between the two lines of precedent governing retrospective application that are represented by Bradley v. Richmond School Bd., supra, and Bowen v. Georgetown University Hospital, 488 U. S. 204, which held that congressional enactments will not be construed to have retroactive effect unless their language requires this result. Under either view, where the congressional intent is clear, it governs. Pp. 494 U. S. 836-840.

4. The equities of the case do not require that the rate of interest be set at a rate higher than that afforded by § 1961. Where Congress has not seen fit to provide for a higher interest rate with respect to antitrust

Page 494 U. S. 829

suits and has set a definite applicable rate, the courts may not legislate to the contrary. P. 494 U. S. 840.

865 F.2d 566, (C.A.3 1989), affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,and STEVENS, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 494 U. S. 830. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 494 U. S. 858.

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