JERRY E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:
An annuitant's guardian sued a collection of charities and universities, alleging that they conspired to fix rates of return on charitable gift annuities. We dismissed defendants' appeals for want of jurisdiction and imposed sanctions. See Ozee v. American Council on Gift Annuities, Inc., 110 F.3d 1082 (5th Cir.1997). The Supreme Court vacated and remanded for further consideration in light of the Charitable Donation Antitrust Immunity Act of 1997, Pub.L. No. 105-26, 111 Stat. 241 (1997) (to be codified at 15 U.S.C. § 37-37(a)). See American Bible Soc'y v. Richie, ___ U.S. ___, 118 S.Ct. 596, 139 L.Ed.2d 486 (1997). We now dismiss plaintiff's antitrust claims, reinstate the sanctions, grant the motion to intervene, and remand for determination of whether any state law claims survive.
The facts and proceedings are set forth at length in our prior opinion. See 110 F.3d at 1088-90. To summarize briefly: The defendants were accused of suppressing competition in the market for charitable gift annuities. A purchaser of a charitable gift annuity receives a fixed stream of income in exchange for his "donation" to the charity; the annual payout is referred to as the charitable gift annuity rate, which rate the defendants were accused of fixing.
Dorothy Ozee (later replaced by Boyd Richie) sued the charities on behalf of Louise Peter, an elderly woman who purchased these annuities. She asserted a claim under § 1 of the Sherman Act and added supplemental Texas state law claims. The defendants, having lost their initial motion to dismiss, persuaded Congress to pass a bill aimed at squelching this suit. The Charitable Gift Annuity Antitrust Relief Act of 1995 ("Relief Act") provided that
15 U.S.C. § 37(a) (1996).
We concluded that we lacked jurisdiction to entertain the appeal under the collateral order doctrine. Our reasoning was based on the fact that Richie's amended complaint alleged a conspiracy involving organizations not exempt under § 501(c)(3); the allegations therefore were not covered by the plain language of the Relief Act, which did not encompass
The defendants sought relief from our decision in both Congress and the Supreme Court. Congress acted first, once again enacting a statute targeting the instant lawsuit. The Charitable Donation Antitrust Immunity Act of 1997 ("Immunity Act"), signed into law on July 3, 1997, amended the Relief Act. The section entitled "Immunity" provides:
15 U.S.C. § 37(b) (1998). The statute also directs, more generally, that "the antitrust laws, and any State law similar to any of the antitrust laws, shall not apply to charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts." 15 U.S.C. § 37(a). Finally, Congress provided that the Immunity Act have retroactive application to all judicial actions pending on its enactment date. See Pub.L. No. 105-26, § 3, 111 Stat. 241, 247 (1997). After enactment of the statute, the Supreme Court granted the defendants' petitions for writs of certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded for further consideration in light of the Immunity Act. See American Bible Soc'y v. Richie, ___ U.S. ___, 118 S.Ct. 596, 139 L.Ed.2d 486 (1997).
Richie concedes that the Immunity Act applies to the instant case. We agree. The Immunity Act amends the Relief Act by affording a far broader exemption to organizations engaging in anticompetitive behavior related to the issuance or payment of charitable gift annuities. Specifically, the Immunity Act expands the Relief Act's protections to include anticompetitive practices by non-exempt entities or by participants in a hybrid conspiracy. The defendants are covered by the plain language of the amended statute.
Richie urges us to postpone the inevitable and remand to the district court for consideration of the new law. As authority, he cites Concerned Citizens v. Sills, 567 F.2d 646, 649-50 (5th Cir.1978), where we observed that "[b]ecause the factual basis for the district court's holding was eliminated within days after final judgment was entered, we conclude that the judgment should be vacated and the case remanded for reconsideration in light of the facts as they now stand." Concerned that intervening events might have deprived the court of jurisdiction, we directed the district court "to determine whether plaintiffs still desire to engage in any arguably protected activity which they likely would forego in the absence of the relief they seek." Id. at 651. As this language suggests, Sills is not on point, because there a remand was necessary for additional fact-finding.
Here, by contrast, there are no additional facts that await development.
That leaves the matter of sanctions. The defendants argue that, under United States v. Schooner Peggy, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 103, 109, 2 L.Ed. 49 (1801), we are obliged to "decide according to existing law" the issue of the frivolousness of their appeal. They contend that because the Supreme Court vacated the prior judgment, there is no frivolous "original appeal" remaining, and it would be improper for us to impose "new" sanctions based on their current — and, in light of existing law, meritorious — appeal.
We do not agree. That Congress subsequently amended the law to conform to the defendants' interpretation in no way justifies their earlier conduct. We measure the frivolity of an appeal by the law existing at the time, not the law as it evolves or is amended in subsequent years. Defendants point to language from the Immunity Act's legislative history suggesting that this court did not interpret the Relief Act "as broadly as it was intended by Congress." See H.R.REP. No. 146, 105th Cong., 1st Sess. 3 (1997). Yet, even if we assume that the defendants' interpretation harmonized with after-expressed congressional intent, their appeal was frivolous under the plain statutory language that existed at the time.
The defendants' contention that they should not be penalized for pursuing an appeal in a case of first impression is unpersuasive. While it is true that we have called sanctions "inappropriate" when the case is one of first impression, see Estiverne v. Sak's Fifth Avenue, 9 F.3d 1171, 1174 (5th Cir. 1993) (per curiam), the novelty of a legal issue merely cuts against, but does not preclude, the imposition of sanctions. See United States v. Alexander, 981 F.2d 250, 253 (5th Cir.1993) ("Of course, a claim that is utterly insupportable may be sanctionable even if the circuit has not addressed the issue."). Were this not the case, a patently frivolous but novel legal argument — "novel," perhaps, because no litigant would dream of bringing it with a straight face — would not be sanctionable.
The specter of sanctions deters not only the raising of claims that have been considered and rejected repeatedly, but also the pursuit of untested claims that are worthless on their face. We decline to adopt a rule of "first-impression immunity" and, accordingly, we now reimpose the sanctions.
The motion to dismiss plaintiff's antitrust claims is GRANTED, and a judgment of dismissal of that claim is hereby RENDERED. The order denying Morales's motion