414 U.S. 453 (1974), 72-1289, National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. National Association of Railroad Passengers

Docket Nº:No. 72-1289
Citation:414 U.S. 453, 94 S.Ct. 690, 38 L.Ed.2d 646
Party Name:National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. National Association of Railroad Passengers
Case Date:January 09, 1974
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 453

414 U.S. 453 (1974)

94 S.Ct. 690, 38 L.Ed.2d 646

National Railroad Passenger Corp.

v.

National Association of Railroad Passengers

No. 72-1289

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 9, 1974

Argued November 12, 1973

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent brought this action to enjoin discontinuance of certain passenger trains on the ground that such discontinuance was prohibited by the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 (Amtrak Act). The District Court dismissed the action on the ground that respondent lacked standing under § 307(a) of the Amtrak Act, which confers jurisdiction on federal district courts to grant equitable relief on petition of the Attorney General or, in a case involving a labor agreement, on petition of any affected employee, including authorized employee representatives, if Amtrak or any railroad acts inconsistently with the Act or fails to discharge its responsibilities thereunder. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that respondent did have standing, and that § 307(a) does not otherwise bar such a suit by an allegedly aggrieved private party.

Held: Section 307(a), in light of its express language, and the legislative history of that provision and of the Act as a whole, provides the exclusive remedies for breaches of any duties or obligations imposed by the Act, and no additional private cause of action to enforce compliance with the Act can properly be inferred. Pp. 455-465.

154 U.S.App.D.C. 214, 475 F.2d 325, reversed and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 465. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 466. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondent, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), brought this action in the District Court to enjoin the announced discontinuance of certain passenger trains that had previously been operated by the Central of Georgia Railway Co. (Central). Named as defendants were Central, its parent, Southern Railway Co. (Southern), and the National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak), all of which are the petitioners in this Court. The question before us is whether this action is maintainable under applicable federal law.

After the enactment of the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 (Amtrak Act), 84 Stat. 1327, 45 U.S.C. § 501 et seq., Central contracted with Amtrak for the latter to assume Central's inter-city rail passenger service responsibilities.1 Southern has not entered into any contract with Amtrak. The train discontinuances that precipitated this action were announced by Amtrak pursuant to § 404(b)(2) of the Amtrak Act, 45 U.S.C. § 564(b)(2).2 The gravamen of the respondent's complaint

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was that these discontinuances are not authorized by, and, in fact, are prohibited by, the Amtrak Act.3 The District Court concluded that the respondent lacks standing under § 307 of the Amtrak Act, 4a U.S.C. § 547, and accordingly dismissed the action. [94 S.Ct. 692] The Court of Appeals reversed, and held that the respondent has standing and that § 307 does not otherwise bar such a suit by a private party who is allegedly aggrieved.4 We granted certiorari to decide whether such a private cause of action can be maintained in light of § 307(a) of the Amtrak Act. 411 U.S. 981 (1973).

In this Court and in the Court of Appeals, the parties have approached the question from several perspectives. The issue has been variously stated to be whether the Amtrak Act can be read to create a private right of action to enforce compliance with its provisions; whether a federal district court has jurisdiction under the terms of

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the Act to entertain such a suit; and whether the respondent has standing to bring such a suit. Because the reference in each instance is to § 307(a) of the Act and the legislative history behind that provision, these questions overlap in the context of this case even more than they ordinarily would. But, however phrased, the threshold question clearly is whether the Amtrak Act or any other provision of law creates a cause of action whereby a private party such as the respondent can enforce duties and obligations imposed by the Act; for it is only if such a right of action exists that we need consider whether the respondent had standing to bring the action and whether the District Court had jurisdiction to entertain it.

The respondent has pointed to no provision of law outside the Amtrak Act itself that can be read to create or imply the cause of action that it seeks to bring against the petitioner. It follows that support for the bringing of this action must be found, if at all, within the four corners of that Act. The only section of the Act that authorizes any suits to enforce duties and obligations is § 307(a), which provides:

If the Corporation or any railroad engages in or adheres to any action, practice, or policy inconsistent with the policies and purposes of this chapter, obstructs or interferes with any activities authorized by this chapter, refuses, fails, or neglects to discharge its duties and responsibilities under this chapter, or threatens any such violation, obstruction, interference, refusal, failure, or neglect, the district court of the United States for any district in which the Corporation or other person resides or may be found shall have jurisdiction, except as otherwise prohibited by law, upon petition of the Attorney General of the United States or, in a case involving a labor agreement, upon petition of any employee affected

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thereby, including duly authorized employee representatives, to grant such equitable relief as may be necessary or appropriate to prevent or terminate any violation, conduct, or threat.

45 U.S.C. § 547(a).

In terms, § 307(a) purports only to confer jurisdiction, not to create a cause of action. The legislative history, however, makes clear that the congressional purpose was to authorize certain types of suits for the enforcement of the Act's provisions. The House Report explained the section as follows:

Section 307 authorizes the Attorney General of the United States to sue the corporation or any railroad to prevent acts of omission or commission [94 S.Ct. 693] in violation of this legislation. In the case of labor agreements, individual employees or duly authorized employee representatives may sue for equitable relief.

H.R.Rep. No. 91-1580, p. 9 (1970).

In light of the language and legislative history of § 307(a), we read it as creating a public cause of action, maintainable by the Attorney General, to enforce the duties and responsibilities imposed by the Act. The only private cause of action created by that provision, however, is explicitly limited to "a case involving a labor agreement." Thus, no authority for the action the respondent has brought can be found in the language of § 307(a). The argument is made, however, that § 307(a) serves only to authorize certain suits against Amtrak, and that it should not be read to preclude other. private causes of action for the enforcement of obligations imposed by the Act. The respondent claims that railroad passengers are the intended beneficiaries of the Act, and that the courts should therefore imply a private cause of action whereby they can enforce compliance with the Act's provisions. See J. I. Case Co. v. Borak, 377 U.S. 426, 431-432 (1964). It goes without saying,

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however, that the inference of such a private cause of action not otherwise authorized by the statute must be consistent with the evident legislative intent and, of course, with the effectuation of the purposes intended to be served by the Act.

A frequently stated principle of statutory construction is that, when legislation expressly provides a particular remedy or remedies, courts should not expand the coverage of the statute to subsume other remedies. "When a statute limits a thing to be done in a particular mode, it includes the negative of any other mode." Botany Mills v. United States, 278 U.S. 282, 289 (1929). This principle of statutory construction reflects an ancient maxim -- expressio unius est exclusio alterius. Since the Act creates a public cause of action for the enforcement of its provisions and a private cause of action only under very limited circumstances, this maxim would clearly compel the conclusion that the remedies created in § 307(a) are the exclusive means to enforce the duties and obligations imposed by the Act. But even the most basic general principles of statutory construction must yield to clear contrary evidence of legislative intent. Neuberger v. Commissioner, 311 U.S. 83, 88 (1940). Accordingly, we turn to the legislative history of § 307(a).

The original draft of § 307(a) differed from its present form in several respects. It conferred upon federal district courts jurisdiction to entertain suits against Amtrak (but not individual railroads)

upon petition of the Attorney General of the United States or, in a case involving a labor agreement, upon petition of any individual affected thereby. . . .5

At the hearings of the House

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Committee, representatives of organized labor took issue with certain aspects of the draft provision and proposed several changes. One of these proposals would have authorized suits against the railroads as well as Amtrak. Another would have authorized private suits by

any person adversely affected or aggrieved thereby, including the representatives of the employees of any...

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