Arrow Transportation Company v. Southern Railway Company, No. 430

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation372 U.S. 658,83 S.Ct. 984,10 L.Ed.2d 52
Decision Date15 April 1963
Docket NumberNo. 430
PartiesARROW TRANSPORTATION COMPANY et al., Petitioners, v. SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY et al

372 U.S. 658
83 S.Ct. 984
10 L.Ed.2d 52
ARROW TRANSPORTATION COMPANY et al., Petitioners,

v.

SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY et al.

No. 430.
Argued Jan. 10, 1963.
Decided April 15, 1963.

Page 659

John C. Lovett, Benton, Ky., for petitioners.

Ralph S. Spritzer, Washington, D.C., for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Dean Acheson, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

A schedule of reduced rates proposed by the respondent rail carriers was suspended by the Interstate Commerce Commission for the maximum statutory period of seven months pending a determination whether the reduction was lawful. The statute1 expressly provides that 'the

Page 660

proposed change of rate * * * shall go into effect,' if the Commission's proceeding has not been concluded and an order made within the period of suspension. The Commission did not reach a decision within seven months, or within the following five months during which the respondents voluntarily postponed the change, and the respondents announced that the reduced rates would be put in effect. Thereupon the petitioners2 brought this

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action in the District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to enjoin the respondents from making the change effective pending the Commission's decision. The District Court concluded after examination of the pleadings and a brief hearing that 'there is grave danger that irreparable injury, loss or damage may be inflicted on * * * (petitioners) if the proposed rates go into effect * * * for which * * * (petitioners) will have no adequate remedy at law.'3 The court held, however, that § 15(7) vested

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exclusive power in the Commission to suspend a change of rate for a limited time and thereby precluded District Court jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief extending the statutory period. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, stating, 'Congress, in its wisdom, has fixed seven months as the maximum period of suspension. It seems clear to us that if the courts extend that period, they are in effect amending the statute and that is a matter beyond their power.' 308 F.2d 181, 186. We granted certiorari, 371 U.S. 859, 83 S.Ct. 121, 9 L.Ed.2d 98.4 We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

I.

The Interstate Commerce Commission was granted no power to suspend proposed rate changes in the original

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Act of 1887. That power first appeared among the 1910 amendments introduced by the Mann-Elkins Act.5 The problem as to whether the application of new rates might be stayed pending decision as to their lawfulness first emerged after the Commission was empowered by the Hepburn Act of 1906 to determine the validity of proposed rates. In the absence of any suspension power in the Commission, shippers turned to the courts for injunctive relief. The results were not satisfactory. The lower federal courts evinced grave doubt whether they possessed any equity jurisdiction to grant such injunctions, and the availability of relief depended on the view of a particular court on this much controverted issue.6 The Interstate Commerce Commission was more concerned, however, with certain practical consequences of leaving the question with the courts. In its Annual Reports for the three years before 1910 the Commission had directed attention to the fact that such courts as entertained jurisdiction were reaching diverse results, which engendered confusion and produced competitive inequities. The large expense entailed in prosecuting an action and financing a substantial bond proved prohibitive for many small shippers of modest means. Even when a large shipper secured an injunction, the scope of its relief often protected only that particular shipper, leaving his weaker

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competitors at the mercy of the new rate.7 Therefore, the Commission reported to Congress, '* * * as a practical matter the small shipper who can not file the bond can not and does not continue in business under the higher rate.' I.C.C. Annual Report, 1908, p. 12. As an equally serious consequence, the regulatory goal of uniformity was jeopardized by the diverse conclusions reached by different District Courts—even, it appears, as to the reasonableness of a particular rate change. This resulted in disparity of treatment as between different shippers, carriers, and sections of the country, causing in turn 'discrimination and hardship to the general public.' I.C.C. Annual Report, 1907, p. 10.

It cannot be said that the legislative history of the grant of the suspension power to the Commission includes unambiguous evidence of a design to extinguish whatever judicial power may have existed prior to 1910 to suspend proposed rates. However, we cannot suppose that Congress, by vesting the new suspension power in the Commission, intended to give backhanded approval to the exercise of a judicial power which had brought the whole problem to a head.

Moreover, Congress engaged in a protracted controversy concerning the period for which the Commission might suspend a change of rates. Such a controversy would have been a futile exercise unless the Congress also meant to foreclose judicial power to extend that period. This controversy spanned nearly two decades. At the outset in 1910, the proposal for conferring any such power on the Commission was strenuously opposed. The car-

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riers contended that any postponement of rate changes would result in loss of revenue or competitive advantages fairly due them in the interim if the rates were finally determined to be lawful. But this opposition eventually took the form of efforts to limit the time for which suspension might be ordered by the Commission.8 The Mann-Elkins Act authorized a suspension for an initial period not to exceed 120 days with a discretionary power in the Commission to extend the period for a maximum additional six months.9 Ten years later the Esch-Cummins Act of 1920 cut the authorized period of extension from six months to 30 days,10 thus reducing from 10 to five months the overall period for which the Commission might order a suspension. Congress was aware throughout the consideration of these measures that some shippers might for a time have to pay unlawful rates because a proceeding might not be concluded and an order made within the reduced time.11 To mitigate that hardship,

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the 1920 amendments authorized the Commission in such cases to require the carriers to keep detailed accounts of charges collected and to order refunds of excess charges if the Commission ultimately found the rates to be unlawful.12 The suspension provisions took their present form, vesting authority in the Commission to suspend for a maximum period of seven months, in the Act of 1927. 13 The accounting and refund provisions of the 1920 law remained. Thus, as we have observed before, the present limitation was 'formed after much experimentation with the period of suspension * * *.' Interstate Commerce Comm'n v. Inland Waterways Corp., 319 U.S. 671, 689, 63 S.Ct. 1296, 1306, 87 L.Ed. 1655.

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We cannot believe that Congress would have given such detailed consideration to the period of suspension unless it meant thereby to vest in the Commission the sole and exclusive power to suspend and to withdraw from the judiciary any pre-existing power to grant injunctive relief. This Court has previously indicated its view that the present section had that effect. In board of Railroad Comm'rs v. Great Northern R. Co., 281 U.S. 412, 429, 50 S.Ct. 391, 396, 74 L.Ed. 936, Chief Justice Hughes said for the Court: 'This power of suspension was entrusted to the Commission only.'14 The lower federal courts have also said as much.15 And

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the commentators of the matter have consistently supported the soundness of that view.16

There is, of course, a close nexus between the suspension power and the Commission's primary jurisdiction to determine the lawfulness and reasonableness of rates, a jurisdiction to which this Court had, even in 1910, already given the fullest recognition. Texas & Pacific R. Co. v. Abilene Cotton Oil Co., 204 U.S. 426, 27 S.Ct. 350, 51 L.Ed. 553.17 This relationship suggests it would be anomalous if a Congress which created a power of suspension in the Commission because of the dissonance engendered by recourse to the injunction nevertheless meant the judicial remedy to survive. The more plausible inference is that Congress meant to foreclose a judicial power to interfere with the timing of rate changes which would be out of harmony with the uniformity of rate levels fostered by the doctrine of primary jurisdiction.

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It must be admitted that Congress dealt with the problem as it affected the relations between shippers and carriers, making no express reference to the interests of competing carriers and their customers such as are involved in the instant case. We see no warrant in that omission, however, for a difference in result. Conflicts over rates between competing carriers were familiar to the Commission long before 1910;18 indeed, the struggle between competing barge and rail carriers has been going on almost since railroads came onto the national scene. Indeed, in another provision of the very same statute Congress in 1910 dealt explicitly with the reduction of rates by railroads competing with water carriers: Section 4(2) of the Act forbids a rail carrier competing with a water carrier to increase rates once reduced on a competitive service, unless 'after hearing by the Commission it shall be found that such proposed increase rests upon changed conditions other than the elimination of water competition.' 49 U.S.C. § 4(2). In addition § 8 of the Act, 49 U.S.C. § 8, creates a private right of action for damages—based upon conduct violative of the Act—which might be available, though we have no occasion here to decide the question, to a competitor...

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141 practice notes
  • Associated Press v. FCC, No. 23833
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 12, 1971
    ...this case, the Commission has suspended a tariff for the maximum period allowed by statute. Arrow Transportation Co. v. Southern R. Co., 372 U.S. 658, 83 S.Ct. 984, 10 L.Ed.2d 52 (1963). Nor may we review a refusal to suspend. National Industrial Traffic League v. United States, 287 F.Supp.......
  • Sampson v. Murray 8212 403, No. 72
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 19, 1974
    ...before undertaking an unexpected shift in policy.39 But, at the other end of the spectrum, in Arrow Transportation Co. v. Southern R. Co., 372 U.S. 658, 83 S.Ct. 984, 10 L.Ed.2d 52 (1963), this Court held that a specific congressional grant of power to the ICC to suspend proposed rate modif......
  • Transcontinental Bus System, Inc. v. CAB, No. 22791
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 24, 1967
    ...to judicial review. See § 10(e) of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1009(e) (1964); Arrow Transp. Co. v. Southern R. R., 372 U.S. 658, 83 S.Ct. 984, 10 L.Ed.2d 52 (1963). Because of the manner in which we dispose of the case, we find it unnecessary to pass on the question of whe......
  • Aeronautical Radio, Inc. v. F. C. C., Nos. 77-1333
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 4, 1981
    ...Allied Milling Corp., 442 U.S. 444, 454, 99 S.Ct. 2388, 2394, 60 L.Ed.2d 1017 (1979); Arrow Transportation Co. v. Southern Railway Co., 372 U.S. 658, 667-669, 83 S.Ct. 984, 988-990, 10 L.Ed.2d 52 (1963). As the court in Papago observed, "It would make little sense to declare orders concerni......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
141 cases
  • Associated Press v. FCC, No. 23833
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 12, 1971
    ...this case, the Commission has suspended a tariff for the maximum period allowed by statute. Arrow Transportation Co. v. Southern R. Co., 372 U.S. 658, 83 S.Ct. 984, 10 L.Ed.2d 52 (1963). Nor may we review a refusal to suspend. National Industrial Traffic League v. United States, 287 F.Supp.......
  • Sampson v. Murray 8212 403, No. 72
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 19, 1974
    ...before undertaking an unexpected shift in policy.39 But, at the other end of the spectrum, in Arrow Transportation Co. v. Southern R. Co., 372 U.S. 658, 83 S.Ct. 984, 10 L.Ed.2d 52 (1963), this Court held that a specific congressional grant of power to the ICC to suspend proposed rate modif......
  • Transcontinental Bus System, Inc. v. CAB, No. 22791
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 24, 1967
    ...to judicial review. See § 10(e) of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1009(e) (1964); Arrow Transp. Co. v. Southern R. R., 372 U.S. 658, 83 S.Ct. 984, 10 L.Ed.2d 52 (1963). Because of the manner in which we dispose of the case, we find it unnecessary to pass on the question of whe......
  • Aeronautical Radio, Inc. v. F. C. C., Nos. 77-1333
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 4, 1981
    ...Allied Milling Corp., 442 U.S. 444, 454, 99 S.Ct. 2388, 2394, 60 L.Ed.2d 1017 (1979); Arrow Transportation Co. v. Southern Railway Co., 372 U.S. 658, 667-669, 83 S.Ct. 984, 988-990, 10 L.Ed.2d 52 (1963). As the court in Papago observed, "It would make little sense to declare orders concerni......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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