65 F.2d 180 (D.D.C. 1933), 5873, I.C.C. v. United States ex rel. Arcata & M.R.R. Co.

Docket Nº:5873.
Citation:65 F.2d 180
Party Name:INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION v. UNITED STATES ex rel. ARCATA & MAD RIVER RAILROAD CO.
Case Date:April 10, 1933
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 180

65 F.2d 180 (D.D.C. 1933)

INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION

v.

UNITED STATES ex rel. ARCATA & MAD RIVER RAILROAD CO.

No. 5873.

Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.

April 10, 1933

Argued March 6, 1933.

Appeal from the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

Daniel W. Knowlton and H. L. Underwood, both of Washington, D. C., for appellant.

Charles D. Drayton and Robert E. Quirk, both of Washington, D. C., for appellee.

Before MARTIN, Chief Justice, and ROBB, HITZ and GRONER, Associate Justices.

GRONER, Associate Justice.

Arcata & Mad River Railroad Company, which we shall call appellee, operated a narrow gauge line from Arcata, Cal., where it connected with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, to Korbel, Cal., a distance of about 13 miles. Its entire capital was owned by Northern Redwood Lumber Company, and it was built primarily to transport the lumber company's product for delivery to connecting carriers. Approximately 92 per cent. of its revenues were derived from traffic furnished by the lumber company. The Commission found as a fact that when the timber of the lumber company was exhausted the operation of the line would be abandoned.

Under the President's 1917 proclamation all carriers by railroad, including appellee, were taken under federal control. In June, 1918, the Director General relinquished control of appellee and many other short-line railroads. In August, 1925, appellee filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission a claim under section 204 of the Transportation Act of 1920 (USCA, title 49, c. 3, § 73) for reimbursement in accordance with that section in the amount of $72,401.84 for the period January 1, 1918, to February 29, 1920. The Commission rejected the claim, and appellee filed in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia a petition for mandamus. The Commission answered, and appellee demurred. The court below sustained the demurrer and granted mandamus, and the case is here on appeal. The facts are undisputed. The prayer of the petition was that the court command and direct the Commission to 'ascertain in the manner prescribed in section 204 of the Transportation Act, 1920, the amount by which relator's [appellee's] railway operating income decreased during the

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Federal control period as compared with the so-called test period, and to certify said amount to the Secretary of the Treasury for payment.'

Section 204 of the Transportation Act was a post-war measure designed to compensate short lines for losses sustained during that part of federal control during which they operated their own property. On behalf of appellee it is argued that section 204 is ministerial and requires the Commission only to ascertain the facts and make the certificate, but that, instead, the Commission dismissed the claim for lack of jurisdiction; that this was wrong, and that, since appellee has no other adequate remedy, mandamus should issue. The Commission, on the other hand, insist that the duty imposed by section 204 is judicial and not ministerial, and that the application of the section requires construction and interpretation by it as a condition precedent to the issue of the certificate, and that it fully heard and decided the claim on the merits.

Section 204 defines 'carrier' to mean a railroad 'engaged as a common...

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