Federal Mining & Smelting Co. v. Public Utilities Commission

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtSULLIVAN, C. J.
Citation26 Idaho 391,143 P. 1173
Decision Date17 October 1914
PartiesFEDERAL MINING & SMELTING CO., Plaintiff, v. THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION et al., Defendants

143 P. 1173

26 Idaho 391

FEDERAL MINING & SMELTING CO., Plaintiff,
v.

THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION et al., Defendants

Supreme Court of Idaho

October 17, 1914


UTILITY ACT-UTILITIES COMMISSION-COMPULSORY PRODUCTION OF BOOKS AND PAPERS.

1. In a contest between a patron and a utility corporation in regard to the establishment of reasonable rates, the Utilities Commission has power to require the corporation to produce any and all records, contracts or papers bearing upon the questions in issue and that would throw any light upon the question of reasonable rates; and the commission has full power and authority to pass upon and determine the relevancy or competency of all evidence offered to prove or disprove the issues made by the pleadings, and this authority should be liberally exercised to enable parties to prepare properly for trial.

2. The business of the Washington Water Power Company, the defendant in the original proceeding, is the manufacture and sale of electricity to numerous customers, and the reasonable cost thereof can only be determined by showing the actual value of the plant, the actual cost to manufacture and deliver the electricity and all necessary disbursements for that purpose, including taxes, also the depreciation of the plant, plus a fair return on the money invested; and to determine the questions that must be determined, it will necessitate an examination of the plant and business of the corporation, and for that reason the plaintiff, in order to prepare itself for trial, should have an inspection of all the books, papers and documents of said utility corporation and all of its plants in so far as the same will show, or tend to show, the reasonable value of the plant and what it actually costs to manufacture and deliver electricity and power.

3. The Public Utilities Commission should, under suitable conditions, permit the Federal Mining Company to inspect the books, files and papers of said utility corporation in so far as they contain matter relating to, or in any way connected with, the fixing of the value of the plant and the reasonable rate to be charged for the product, and should give plaintiff ample time and opportunity for that purpose.

4. Under the provisions of sec. 49 of said act, said commission is not bound by the technical rules of evidence, and by the provisions of sec. 29 of said act, said commission is authorized to do all things necessary to carry out the spirit and intent of said act. [26 Idaho 392]

Original proceeding in this court for a writ of review to determine the validity of an order of the Public Utilities Commission refusing to require the Washington Water Power Company to permit the plaintiff to examine all of its records; files and papers. The order and action of the Commission affirmed.

Action of the commission affirmed, with costs in favor of the commission.

James E. Babb, A. H. Featherstone, C. W. Beale and John H. Wourms, for Plaintiff.

The opinion of the commission, as to privacy of the power company's books and as to a fishing examination, is based on rules that would be applicable in a suit between private individuals or private corporations and which were established before Munn v. Illinois (1877), 94 U.S. 113, 24 L.Ed. 77, in which it was first established that any business affected with a public interest is subject to public control and direction--the power to regulate rates and get information necessary being the police power. (Town of Ukiah v. Snow Mountain Water & Power Co. See many cases cited in opinion of California Railroad Commission, Feb. 27, 1914, Case No. 483, Decision No. 1309.)

The resulting change in the attitude of the courts in investigating the books and accounts of such corporations is declared in Wilson v. United States, 220 U.S. 614, 31 S.Ct. 545, 55 L.Ed. 610; followed in Burnett v. State, 8 Okla. Cr. 639, 129 P. 1110, 47 L. R. A., N. S., 1175, notes; Hammond Packing Co. v. Arkansas, 212 U.S. 322, 29 S.Ct. 370, 53 L.Ed. 530, 15 Ann. Cas. 645.

Accounts kept of such a public use belong to the public use, and the consumers have an interest therein, and the facts reposing therein as to the suecess and failure of the enterprise, which affects the rate to be paid. (New York Edison Co. v. City of New York, 133 A.D. 728, 118 N.Y.S. 238; United Electric Light & Power Co. v. City of New York, 133 A.D. 732, 118 N.Y. 240; Brigham v. Zaiss, 48 A.D. 144, 62 N.Y.S. 706; Veiller v. Oppenheim, 75 Hun, 21, 26 N.Y.S. 1051; Thomas v. Guy B. White Co., 113 A.D. 494, 99 N.Y.S. 297; People v. American Ice Co., 54 Misc. 67, 105 N.Y.S. 650; Home Telephone Co. v. City of Carthage, 235 Mo. 644, Ann. Cas. 1912D, 301, 139 S.W. 547, 48 L. R. A., N. S., 1055.)

W. H. Hanson, Amicus Curiae.

There is no authority in an equity proceeding where a general and extensive ramifying account is to be taken, but holds that it is necessary to have the inspection and examination before the commencement of the trial. The staying by injunction of a court of equity of trial of law case is a uniform and unquestioned precedent in support of that position. (Arnold v. Pawtuxt Val. Water Co., 18 R. I. 189, 26 A. 55, 19 L. R. A. 602; Hillman v. United States, 192 F. 264, 112 C. C. A. 522; In re Grant, 198 F. 708; Simon v. American Tobacco Co., 192 F. 662; Dreier v. United States, 221 U.S. 394, 31 S.Ct. 550, 55 L.Ed. 784; Wheeler v. United States, 226 U.S. 478, 33 S.Ct. 158, 57 L.Ed. 309; Burnett v. State, 8 Okla. Cr. 639, 129 P. 1110, 47 L. R. A., N. S., 1175, and notes.)

John P. Gray, for Washington Water Power Co.

"The plaintiff's right to a discovery does not extend to all facts which may be material to the issue, but is confined to facts which are material to his own title or cause of action; it does not enable him to pry into the defendant's case, or find out the evidence by which that case will be supported." (Pomeroy's Eq. Jur., sec. 201; Story's Equity Pleadings, secs. 317, 325; Newkerk v. Willett, 2 Caines Cas. (N. Y.) 269; Cully v. Northern P. Ry. Co., 35 Wash. 241, 77 P. 202; Carpenter v. Winn, 221 U.S. 533, 31 S.Ct. 683, 55 L.Ed. 842; Owyhee Land & Irr. Co. v. Tautphaus, 109 F. 547, 48 C. C. A. 535; Oro Water, Light & Power Co. v. Oroville, 162 F. 975; State ex rel. Boston & M. Con. Copper & Silver M. Co. v. District Court, 27 Mont. 441, 94 Am. St. 831, 71 P. 602; Ex parte Clarke, 126 Cal. 235, 77 Am. St. 176, 58 P. 546, 46 L. R. A. 835.)

The question of the organization of the defendant company, how its capital stock was issued and how it was paid for, and all kindred questions, is immaterial to the controversy. (Smyth v. Ames, 169 U.S. 466, 18 S.Ct. 418, 42 L.Ed. 819.)

J. H. Peterson, Atty. Genl., J. J. Guheen, T. C. Coffin and E. G. Davis, Assts., for Defendant.

In passing upon requests to examine the books and records of corporations, the test of reasonableness is always applied, and in general, parties litigant who desire to inspect the books and records of opposing parties, must first make some showing as to the necessity of such inspection, and their demands must specify with reasonable exactness the particular books and papers which they desire to examine. (Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 26 S.Ct. 370, 50 L.Ed. 652; Wilson v. United States, 221 U.S. 361, Ann. Cas. 1912D, 558, 31 S.Ct. 538, 55 L.Ed. 771.)

SULLIVAN, C. J. Truitt, J., concurs.

OPINION

[26 Idaho 394] SULLIVAN, C. J.

The Federal Mining and Smelting Company filed its formal complaint with the Public Utilities Commission of this state on the 5th of September, 1913, under the provisions of the public utilities act, approved March 13, 1913 (Sess. Laws 1913, p. 247). The purpose of said proceeding was to litigate the reasonableness of rates for power furnished to the plaintiff by the Washington Water Power Company.

The complaint was answered by the water power company and thereafter the complainant made a motion for the production and inspection of all books and records, or certified copies thereof, of the water power company within the state of Idaho, for examination by the attorneys or expert accountants of the plaintiff or petitioner. It was the purpose of this motion, if favorably acted upon, to secure to the plaintiff company an opportunity to examine the books and records of the defendant company and to obtain therefrom such information as it might consider necessary in preparing itself for the hearing before the commission. That motion was [26 Idaho 395] resisted by the Washington Water Power Company on the following specified grounds:

First, that it will be unjust, unfair, unreasonable and work an irreparable damage to the defendant to make any such order.

Second, that the commission is without power to make such an order under chapter 61, Laws of 1913, or any other statute or law in the state of Idaho.

Third, that the making of such an order would be a violation of the defendant's right under and contrary to the provisions of [143 P. 1174] the fourth amendment to the constitution of the United States.

After a hearing, the Utilities Commission denied the motion. Thereafter the plaintiff company filed a petition for a rehearing which was denied. Application was made to this court under the provisions of sec. 63a of said utilities act for a writ of review to review the action of said commission in refusing to grant said motion.

After a consideration of the three grounds above set forth by the Washington Water Power Company against the granting of said motion, we conclude that there is nothing in said first and third grounds. Then the question directly presented is whether it was within the power of the commission to grant said order under said public utilities act, or any other statute or law of the state, and if it possessed the authority and power to grant such order, whether it erred in denying said motion.

Counsel for plaintiff contends that the commission has full power and authority under the...

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8 practice notes
  • Neil v. Public Utilities Commission of State of Idaho
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • January 17, 1919
    ...Power etc. Co. v. Blomquist, 26 Idaho 222, Ann. Cas. 1916E, 282, 141 P. 1083; Federal Min. & Smelting Co. v. Public Utilities Commission, 26 Idaho 391, 143 P. 1173, L. R. A. 1917F, 1195; Murray v. Public Utilities Commission, 27 Idaho 603, 150 P. 47, L. R. A. 1916F, 756, and Coeur d'Alene v......
  • Wallace Bank & Trust Co. v. First National Bank of Fairfield
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • April 30, 1925
    ...325, 326, 706, 707.) The court below erred in denying motion for inspection and examination. (Federal etc. Co. v. Public Utilities Com., 26 Idaho 391, 143 P. 1173; Merrill v. National Bank of Jacksonville, 173 U.S. 131, 19 S.Ct. 360, 43 L.Ed. 640; Preston v. Equity Savings Bank, 287 F. 1003......
  • Boise Water Corp. v. Idaho Public Utilities Commission, No. 12028
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • October 7, 1976
    ...61-601; Application of Citizens Utility Co., 82 Idaho 208, 351 P.2d 487 (1960); Federal Mining & Smelting Co. v. Public Utilities Comm'n, 26 Idaho 391, 143 P. 1173 The Commission had before it the following to support its conclusion to disallow a protion of Company's operating expenses. The......
  • Joslin v. Idaho Times Publishing Co., 6553
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • May 8, 1939
    ...by law" authorizes their compulsory admission by a court in such a suit as this. (Federal Mining & Smelting Co. v. Public Utilities Com., 26 Idaho 391, 143 P. 1173, L. R. A. 1917F, 1195.) No explanatory offer was necessary because the exhibits show upon their face their competency and relev......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Neil v. Public Utilities Commission of State of Idaho
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • January 17, 1919
    ...Power etc. Co. v. Blomquist, 26 Idaho 222, Ann. Cas. 1916E, 282, 141 P. 1083; Federal Min. & Smelting Co. v. Public Utilities Commission, 26 Idaho 391, 143 P. 1173, L. R. A. 1917F, 1195; Murray v. Public Utilities Commission, 27 Idaho 603, 150 P. 47, L. R. A. 1916F, 756, and Coeur d'Alene v......
  • Wallace Bank & Trust Co. v. First National Bank of Fairfield
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • April 30, 1925
    ...325, 326, 706, 707.) The court below erred in denying motion for inspection and examination. (Federal etc. Co. v. Public Utilities Com., 26 Idaho 391, 143 P. 1173; Merrill v. National Bank of Jacksonville, 173 U.S. 131, 19 S.Ct. 360, 43 L.Ed. 640; Preston v. Equity Savings Bank, 287 F. 1003......
  • Boise Water Corp. v. Idaho Public Utilities Commission, No. 12028
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • October 7, 1976
    ...61-601; Application of Citizens Utility Co., 82 Idaho 208, 351 P.2d 487 (1960); Federal Mining & Smelting Co. v. Public Utilities Comm'n, 26 Idaho 391, 143 P. 1173 The Commission had before it the following to support its conclusion to disallow a protion of Company's operating expenses. The......
  • Joslin v. Idaho Times Publishing Co., 6553
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • May 8, 1939
    ...by law" authorizes their compulsory admission by a court in such a suit as this. (Federal Mining & Smelting Co. v. Public Utilities Com., 26 Idaho 391, 143 P. 1173, L. R. A. 1917F, 1195.) No explanatory offer was necessary because the exhibits show upon their face their competency and relev......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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