312 U.S. 496 (1941), 283, Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman Company

Docket Nº:No. 283
Citation:312 U.S. 496, 61 S.Ct. 643, 85 L.Ed. 971
Party Name:Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman Company
Case Date:March 03, 1941
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 496

312 U.S. 496 (1941)

61 S.Ct. 643, 85 L.Ed. 971

Railroad Commission of Texas

v.

Pullman Company

No. 283

United States Supreme Court

March 3, 1941

Argued February 4, 1941

[61 S.Ct. 643] APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS

Syllabus

A railroad company, some of whose trains in Texas had each but one Pullman sleeping car and that in charge of a colored porter subject to the control of the train conductor, assailed in the federal court, as unauthorized by Texas statutes and as violative of the Federal Constitution, a regulation by a state commission which would require that such cars be continuously in charge of an employee "having the rank and position of a Pullman conductor." Pullman porters, intervening, also attacked the order, adopting the railroad's objections but urging mainly that it discriminated against Negroes in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Pullman porters being Negroes and the conductors white.

Held:

Page 497

1. Decision of the issue of unconstitutional discrimination should be withheld pending proceedings to be taken in the state courts to secure a definitive construction of the state statute. P. 498.

2. The federal courts, when asked for the extraordinary remedy of injunction, will exercise a sound discretion in the public interest to avoid needless friction with state policies that may result from tentative constructions of state statutes and premature adjudication on their constitutionality. P. 500.

33 F.Supp. 675, reversed.

APPEAL from a decree of the District Court of three judges which enjoined the enforcement of an order of the above-named Railroad Commission.

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

[61 S.Ct. 644] In those sections of Texas where the local passenger traffic is slight, trains carry but one sleeping car. These trains, unlike trains having two or more sleepers, are without a Pullman conductor; the sleeper is in charge of a porter, who is subject to the train conductor's control. As is well known, porters on Pullmans are colored, and conductors are white. Addressing itself to this situation, the Texas Railroad Commission, after due hearing, ordered that

no sleeping car shall be operated on any line of railroad in the State of Texas . . . unless such

Page 498

cars are continuously in the charge of an employee . . . having the rank and position of Pullman conductor.

Thereupon, the Pullman Company and the railroads affected brought this action in a federal district court to enjoin the Commission's order. Pullman porters were permitted to intervene as...

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