256 F. 417 (1st Cir. 1919), 1374, Benedicto v. West India & Panama Telegraph Co.

Docket Nº1374.
Citation256 F. 417
Party NameBENEDICTO et al. v. WEST INDIA & PANAMA TELEGRAPH CO., Limited, et al.
Case DateMarch 19, 1919
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)

Page 417

256 F. 417 (1st Cir. 1919)

BENEDICTO et al.

v.

WEST INDIA & PANAMA TELEGRAPH CO., Limited, et al.

No. 1374.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

March 19, 1919

Page 418

Col. Edward S. Bailey, Asst. Judge Advocate General, War Department, of Washington, D.C. (Howard L. Kern, Atty. Gen., of Porto Rico, on the brief), for appellants.

Francis H. Dexter, of San Juan, Porto Rico, for appellees.

Before JOHNSON and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges, and ALDRICH, District judge.

ALDRICH, District Judge.

We see no occasion for delaying the decision of this case by reason of the suggestion that certiorari proceedings are pending in the case of the People of Porto Rico et al. v. American Railroad Company of Porto Rico (decided by this court December 4, 1918) 254 F. 369, . . . C.C.A. . . ., as there would seem to be no sense in which that case could bear upon this, whichever way it may be decided, and that is so because, if it should be held by the Supreme Court that interstate commerce jurisdiction goes to the local affairs of Porto Rico, it would not be decisive of the questions here, and in the event of its being held that such jurisdiction does exist in Porto Rico in respect to local railroad rates, it would have no conclusive bearing, because the questions in this case differ from that, not only as to the question in respect to the three judges required by section 266 of the Judicial Code of the United States (Act March 3, 1911, c. 231, 36 Stat. 1162 (Comp. St. Sec. 1243)), but as to the class of commerce involved.

The decision in the People of Porto Rico v. American Railroad Company of Porto Rico was upon the ground that there were no questions there in respect to interstate, interterritorial, or interpossessional situations, with the suggestion that it was quite possible that conditions might be created in the island, through corporate and business relations, which would make its intra-insular railroad business an interterritorial or an interpossessional business, as by connecting with other territories or possessions, while in this case the rates in question sought to be regulated clearly relate to intercommunication by cable between Porto Rico, the United States, the republic of Cuba, and foreign countries, either directly on in conjunction with other lines.

The point is taken that the United States District Court of Porto Rico was without power to deal with the injunction questions involved by reason of section 266 of the Judicial Code, to which reference has been made, where it is provided that no interlocutory injunction restraining the action of officers acting under statutes of states shall be granted upon unconstitutional grounds by a single justice or judge, nor until the application shall be heard and determined by three judges, or a majority of them. So we have to consider whether equity procedure in the island of Porto Rico is subject to the provisions of this section, and we think it is not.

It is quite possible, if the intent were clear, that-- under rules of liberal construction, and under such cases as Metropolitan Railroad v. District of Columbia, 132 U.S. 1, 9, 10 Sup.Ct. 19, 22 (33 L.Ed. 231), where it is said, 'It is undoubtedly true that the District of Columbia is a separate political community in a certain sense, and in that sense may be called a state'-- Porto Rico might be accepted as a state for certain limited purposes, but we think it not clear under the relationship

Page 419

which exists between the United States and that island, and without regard to whether it is strictly that of a possession or a quasi territory, that Congress intended to delegate to the local assembly authority to regulate rates in respect to instrumentalities of commerce between Porto Rico and the United States, and foreign countries.

Our view of section 266 of the Judicial Code of the United States is that its purpose was to prevent inordinate and precipitate federal interference with statutes and Constitutions of the states of the Union, which under their relations with the federal government are broadly administering their own laws, in a...

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