257 US 591 State of New York v. United States

257 U.S. 591

42 S.Ct. 239

66 L.Ed. 385

UNITED STATES et al., Interstate Commerce Commission (LEHIGH VALLEY R. CO. et al., Interveners).

No. 283.

Argued Oct. 19 and 20, 1921.

Decided Feb. 27, 1922.

Mr. Edward G. Griffin, of Albany, N. Y., for appellants.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 592-597 intentionally omitted]

Messrs. Walter C. Noyes, of New York City, Alfred P. Thom, of Washington, D. C., Richard W. Barrett and George F. Brownell, both of New York City, P. J. Farrell, of Washington, D. C., William S. Jenney and C. L. Andrus, both of New York City, for appellees Railroads.

Mr. John E. Benton, of Washington, D. C., for 45 States, amici curiae.

Mr. Patrick J. Farrell, of Washington, D. C., for Interstate Commerce Commission.

Mr. Chief Justice TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.


This was a bill in equity against the United States and the Interstate Commerce Commission and others brought by the State of New York and its Attorney General to annuland enjoin the enforcement of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission requiring the interstate railroads operating in intrastate commerce in the State of New York to charge in such commerce 3.6 cents a mile for all passengers, 20 per cent. increase over the then excess baggage rates to intrastate passengers, a surcharge of 50 per cent. of the charges for space in sleeping cars to such passengers, and 20 per cent. increase in intrastate rates on milk, all for the purpose of bringing the intrastate rates to the level of the interstate rates previously fixed by the Commission. The bill was filed under, and by virtue of, the statute repealing the Commerce Court Act and conferring jurisdiction on the District Court. 38 Stat. 219. The application for an interlocutory injunction was heard by a Circuit Judge and two District Judges. Then a final hearing was had, and the court entered a final decree dismissing the complaint from which this appeal has been taken. The railroad companies affected by the order were on their petition permitted to intervene, and are here as appellees.


It appears from the record that in the proceeding by the Interstate Commerce Commission to fix interstate commerce rates to comply with the requirements of section 15a of the Interstate Commerce Act, as added by section 422 of the Transportation Act of 1920, 41 Stat. 488—a proceeding known as Ex parte 74, Increased Rates, 58 Interst. Com. Com'n R. 220—the Commission, after conference with a committee representing all the state commerce commissions ana authorities authorized the group of intrastate railroads, of which the railroads operating in New York were a part, to raise their freight rates 40 per cent., their passenger rates and excess baggage charges 20 per cent., and to add a surcharge of 50 per cent. for passengers on sleeping cars. As soon as the order in Ex parte 74 was made, the railroads concerned applied to the Public Service Commission of the State of New York for similar increases in intrastate rates. That Commission granted the increase in freight rates, but denied it as to milk rates and passenger fares. The passenger intrastate fares were 3 cents a mile under the order of the President during the war control, but when that should become ineffective, a statute of New York fixing passenger fares on the New York Central Railroad from albany to Buffalo at two cents a mile would come into force and operation. As soon as the state commission made its ruling, the railroads applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission under section 13 of the act of which proceeding notice was given to the state of New York, the Attorney General and the Public Service Commission, all of whom appeared, for an order directing the railroads to put intrastate passenger fares, excess baggage charges, sleeping car surtaxes and milk rates on the same level with interstate rates. Proof was offered by the railways to show that conditions of operation in state and interstate passenger traffic were alike and there was no showing otherwise. The record in Ex parte 74 was put in evidence. There was evidence also to show that at Buffalo and other border points the difference between the interstate and intrastate fares would divert business from the interstate lines between New York City and Buffalo to the New York Central lines, and that the same difference would break up interstate journeys to the west into intrastate journeys to Buffalo from New York and an interstate journey beyond, thus reducing interstate travel and discriminating against passengers carried therein. Evidence was adduced to show the injury to interstate business in the transportation of milk from the country to New York City from points outside of the state in competition with intrastate traffic in this necessity of life. No investigation was made into suburban commuter travel and it is excluded by the Commission from the scope of the order which it made. The order was state wide in its effect and required all interstate carriers to bring their intrastate milk rates, their intrastate passenger fares except commuters' rates, excess baggage charges and sleeping car surcharges to a level with interstate fares and rates as ordered in Ex parte 74. The Commission introduced a saving clause in its findings by which the New York authorities or any other interested parties were given leave to apply for modification of its order or findings as to any intrastate fares, charges or rates included therein on the ground that the latter were not related to interstate fares, charges or rates in such a way as to contravene the provisions of the Interstate Commission Act. Under this clause, at least one petition has been filed by a railroad and the railroad excepted from the order.


The District Court dismissed the bill.


This case differs from the Wisconsin Rate Case, 257 U. S. 563, 42 Sup. Ct. 232, 66 L. Ed. 371, just decided, in that it is a direct proceeding to annul or set aside the order of the Interstate Commerce Commission Complained of, brought against the United States and the Commission under the statute. Skinner & Eddy Corporation v. United States, 249 U. S. 557, 39 Sup. Ct. 375, 63 L. Ed. 772. The Wisconsin Case was a suit by a railroad against the state authorities to prevent the latter from penalizing the railroad for complying with the order of the Commission. To this suit the United States and the Commission were not parties. The defense of the state authorities was a collateral attack upon the order, to prevail in which they were obliged to show that the order was void on the face of the findings without regard to the evidence or the absence of it. In the case before us, the complainants are entitled to rely on the absence of any substantial evidence to sustain a material finding as a basis for attacking the order.


The first objection of the appellants is that there was no sufficient evidence of discrimination against persons and localities under section 13, par. 4, § 416, of the Transportation Act of 1920, to justify a state-wide order of the kind here made. We have considered this objection in the Wisconsin Case on a similar showing on the findings. Here we consider it on the evidence. We reach the same conclusion here and sustain the objection.


The next objection is that the state has a charter contract with the New York Central Railroad Company by which the latter is bound not to charge more than two cents a mile for passenger carriage between Albany and Buffalo, and that if the Transportation Act permits the Interstate Commerce Commission by such an order to enable the railroad company to violate its contract, it impairs the obligation of a contract in violation of section 10, article 1, of the Federal Constitution. That section provides that 'no state shall * * * pass a law * * * impairing the obligation of contracts' and does not in terms restrict Congress or the United States.


But it is said that it deprives New York and her people of property without due process of law. We said in Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. v. United States, 175 U. S. 211, 230, 20 Sup. Ct. 96, 103 (44 L. Ed. 136):


'Anything which directly obstructs and thus regulates that commerce which is carried on among the states, whether it is state legislation or private contracts between individuals or corporations should be subject to the power of Congress in the regulation of that commerce.' Louisville & Nashville R. R. v. Mottley, 219 U. S. 467, 31 Sup. Ct. 265, 55 L. Ed. 297, 34 L. R. A. (N. S.) 671.


See also, Scranton v. Wheeler, 179 U. S. 141, 162, 163, 21 Sup. Ct. 48, 45 L. Ed. 126; Union Bridge Co. v. United States, 204 U. S. 364, 400, 27 Sup. Ct. 367, 51 L. Ed. 523.


The main objections to the order are the same as those presented, considered and overruled in the Wisconsin Rate Case, just decided. The evidence in this case shows that if the passenger and other rates here in controversy were to continue in force as ruled by the Public Service Commission of New York, the annual gross revenues of the interstate railroads operating in the State of New York from both interstate and intrastate passenger and milk business would be less by nearly twelve millions of dollars than those revenues if the intrastate fares and rates were on the same level as the interstate rates as fixed by the Interstate Commerce Commission. If the lower level of intrastate fares and rates is to be maintained, it will discriminate against interstate commerce, in that it will require higher fares and rates in the interstate commerce of the state to secure the income of which the Interstate Commerce Commission must attempt to provide by fixing rates under section 15a of the Interstate Commerce Act as amended by section 422 of the Transportation Act of 1920, 41 Stat. 456, 488, in carrying out the declared congressional purpose 'to provide the people of the United States with adequate transportation.' As we have just held in the Wisconsin Case, this constitutes 'undue, unreasonable and unjust discrimination against interstate commerce,' which is declared to be unlawful and prohibited by section 13, par. 4, of the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended by section 416 of the Transportation Act of 1920, 41 Stat. 456, 484, and which the Interstate Commerce Commission is authorized therein to remove by fixing intrastate rates for the purpose. We need not repeat our reasons for our ruling. Nor need we consider and give again the grounds upon which we hold section 13, par. 4, as thus construed to be valid under the Constitution of the United States.


The decree of the District Court dismissing the bill of complaint is