271 U.S. 153 (1926), 195, Colorado v. United States

Docket Nº:No.195
Citation:271 U.S. 153, 46 S.Ct. 452, 70 L.Ed. 878
Party Name:Colorado v. United States
Case Date:May 03, 1926
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 153

271 U.S. 153 (1926)

46 S.Ct. 452, 70 L.Ed. 878



United States


United States Supreme Court

May 3, 1926

Argued March 5, 8, 1926




1. Under § 1, pars. 18-20, of the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended by Transportation Act, 1920, § 402, the Interstate Commerce Commission has power to authorize abandonment, as respects both intrastate and interstate traffic, of a branch line of railroad lying wholly within the the owning company's incorporation upon the ground that local conditions are such that public convenience and necessity do not require continued operation, and that such operation will result in large deficits constituting an undue burden upon interstate commerce. P. 161.

2. The exercise of federal power in authorizing such abandonment is not an invasion of the field reserved by the Constitution to the state, for the paramount power of Congress over interstate commerce enables it to determine to what extent and in what manner intrastate service must be subordinated in order that interstate service may be adequately rendered. P. 165.

3. In a suit to enjoin an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the court may consider the objections that essential findings were not made and that findings made were not supported by evidence if all the evidence before the Commission was introduced in the court below and is substantially incorporated in the record on appeal. P. 166.

4. While the constitutional basis of authority to issue the certificate of abandonment is the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, the Act does not make issuance of the certificate conditional upon a finding that continued operation will result in discrimination against interstate commerce, or that it will result in a denial of just compensation for the use in intrastate commerce of the property of the carrier within the state, or that it will result in a denial of such compensation for the property within the state used in commerce intrastate and interstate. P. 167.

5. The sole test prescribed by the Act is that abandonment be consistent with public necessity and convenience; in determining this, the Commission must have regard for the needs of both intrastate and interstate commerce. P. 168.


Page 154

Appeal from a decree of the district court which dismissed the bill brought by the State of Colorado against the United States, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the Colorado & Southern Railway Company seeking to enjoin and in part set aside an order of the Commission -- a certificate permitting the railway to abandon a branch line in Colorado.

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BRANDEIS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This suit was brought by Colorado against The United States, in the federal court for that state, to enjoin and set aside, in part, an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission issued February 11, 1924. The order is a certificate that present and future public convenience and necessity permit the abandonment by the Colorado & Southern Railway Company, six months thereafter, of a branch line located wholly in that state. The certificate was issued under Interstate Commerce Act, § 1, pars. 18-20, as amended by Transportation Act 1920, c. 91, § 402, 41 Stat. 456, 477.

The company is a Colorado corporation. It owns and operates in intrastate and interstate commerce a railroad system located partly in Colorado and partly in other states. The branch was constructed under the authority [46 S.Ct. 453] of Colorado, and was acquired by the company under its authority. The line is narrow gauge. It is now physically

Page 160

detached from other lines of the company; but it is operated in both intrastate and interstate commerce as a part of the system by means of connections with other railroads. The certificate was granted on the ground that the local conditions are such that public convenience and necessity do not require continued operation, that for years operation of the branch had resulted in large deficits, that future operation would likewise result in large deficits, that the operating results of the branch are reflected in the company's accounts, that it would have to make good the deficits incurred in operating the branch, and that, thus continued, operation would constitute an undue burden upon interstate commerce. Abandonment of Branch Line by Colorado & Southern Ry., 72 I.C.C. 315; 82 I.C.C. 310; 86 I.C.C. 393.

The application for the certificate was filed September 1, 1921. Before any hearing thereon, the state moved that the proceeding be dismissed on the ground, among others, that, as the branch was wholly intrastate, the Commission was without jurisdiction of the application. This objection was overruled. Thereafter, the state opposed, on the merits, the granting of the certificate. The case was first heard before Division 4 of the Commission on exceptions filed by the company to the examiner's proposed report. On July 28, 1922, the application was denied, with leave to renew it "if the improvement in operating results, confidently anticipated by protestants, should not materialize." 72 I.C.C. 315. On May 19.1923, the company filed a petition praying that the case be reopened and set for further hearing. Division 4 heard it. On September 24, 1923, an order was entered that the certificate issue. 82 I.C.C. 310. A hearing before the full Commission was then sought by the state and the other protestants. Compare United States v. Abilene & Southern Ry. Co., 265 U.S. 274, 281. The

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request was granted. On February 11, 1924, the order was affirmed with the modification that the certificate should not take effect until six months from that date. Abandonment of Branch Line by C. & S. Ry., 86 I.C.C. 393. The effective date of the certificate was later extended to September 11, 1924, and finally to October 11, 1924. 94 I.C.C. 657, 661.

Meanwhile, this suit...

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