Interstate Commerce Commission v. United States of America Ex Rel Humbolt Steamship Company, No. 859

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMcKenna
Citation224 U.S. 474,32 S.Ct. 556,56 L.Ed. 849
Decision Date29 April 1912
Docket NumberNo. 859
PartiesINTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. Plff. in Err., v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. HUMBOLT STEAMSHIP COMPANY

224 U.S. 474
32 S.Ct. 556
56 L.Ed. 849
INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. Plff. in Err.,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. HUMBOLT STEAMSHIP COMPANY.

No. 859.
Argued April 16, 1912.
Decided April 29, 1912.

Page 475

Mr. P. J. Farrell for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 475-477 intentionally omitted]

Page 477

Messrs. Charles D. Drayton, James Wickersham, and John B. Daish for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice McKenna delivered the opinion of the court:

The ultimate question in the case is whether Alaska is a territory of the United States within the meaning of the interstate commerce act as amended.

The Interstate Commerce Commission resolved the question in the negative and dismissed the petition of the Humboldt Steamship Company, the relator, which alleged violations of the act by the White Pass & Yukon Railway Company, operating in Alaska, applying its decision in Re Jurisdiction Over Rail & Water Carriers Operating in Alaska, 19 Inters. Com. Rep. 81.

The steamship company instituted an action in the supreme court of the District of Columbia, praying for a mandamus against the Commission to require it to take jurisdiction and proceed as required by the act and grant the relief for which the steamship company had petitioned,

Page 478

hereinafter specifically mentioned. The proceeding was dismissed. The court expressed the view that the Commission had 'ample authority to assume jurisdiction over common carriers in Alaska, the same as in any other territory, and over those carriers operating between the state of Washington and Alaska, and between Alaska and Canada, and if they took jurisdiction no one could successfully question their right to do so.' The court, however, held that it had no power 'to require the Interstate Commerce Commission to act contrary to its own judgment in a matter wherein, after investigation, it had reached a conclusion, honestly and fairly, which might be contrary to the conclusion which the court would reach.'

The court of appeals, to which court the case was taken by the steamship company, entertained the same view of the interstate commerce act as that expressed by the supreme court, but took a different view of the power of the courts to compel action upon the part of the Commission, and reversed the judgment of the supreme court and remanded the cause, 'with directions to issue a peremptory writ of mandamus directed to the Interstate Commerce Commission, requiring it to take jurisdiction of said cause and proceed therein as by law required.' To this ruling the Interstate Commerce Commission prosecutes this writ of error.

The proceedings before the Commission were instituted by the steamship company filing a petition (No. 2,578) against the White Pass & Yukon Route, consisting of the Pacific & Arctic Railway & Navigation Company, British Columbia-Yukon Railway Company, British-Yukon Railway Company, and British-Yukon Navigation Company, to require said companies to file with the Commission, in the form prescribed by the act to regulate commerce, and to print and keep open for public inspection, schedules showing their rates and charges for transportation of passengers and property between points in Alaska and

Page 479

points in the Dominion of Canada and other places; to establish through routes and joint rates in conjunction with the petitioner between certain named places in Alaska and Seattle, in the state of Washington; to afford all reasonable, proper, and equal facilities for the interchange of traffic between their respective lines; and to cease and desist from preventing by sundry devices the carriage of freights from being continuous from place of shipment to place of destination when such freight is originated or in any wise handled by the Humboldt Steamship Company.

The companies proceeded against filed answers. There were intervening companies on both sides of the controversy.

A hearing was assigned and had in October, 1909, and subsequently, July 6, 1910, the Commission decided that it was 'without jurisdiction to make the order sought by complainant,' resting its ruling upon the authority of its decision in Re Jurisdiction over Rail & Water Carriers Operating in Alaska, supra.

Section 1 of the interstate commerce act provides that the provisions of the act 'shall apply to any . . . common carrier or carriers engaged in the transportation of passengers or property wholly by railroad (or partly by railroad and partly by water, when both are used under a common control, management, or arrangement for a continuous carriage or shipment), from one state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia to any other state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, or from one place in a territory to another place in the same territory, . . . or from any place in the United States through a foreign country to any other place in the United States. . . . ' 34 Stat. at L. 584, chap. 3591, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1909, p. 1150.

The pivotal words are: 'Fron one state or territory of the United States . . . to any other state or

Page 480

territory, . . . or from one place in a territory to another place in the same territory,' 'territory' being the especially significant word.

If we may venture to reduce to a single proposition an elaborate discussion of elements and considerations, we may say that the Commission gave to the word 'territory' the signification of 'organized territory,' the chief and determining feature of which is a local legislature, as distinguished from a territory having a more rudimentary and less autonomous form of government which it considered Alaska possessed.

To this signification and distinction the arguments of counsel are addressed, and much of the reasoning of the lower courts. That field, however, has been traversed by cases in this court, and it need not again be passed over. We may accept and apply the...

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66 practice notes
  • Standard Oil Co. of California v. United States, No. 8985.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 2, 1940
    ...not complete when the reference is to administrative officials or bodies. See Interstate Commerce Commission v. Humboldt Steamship Co., 224 U.S. 474, 484, 32 S.Ct. 556, 56 L.Ed. 849. In relation to administrative agencies, the question in a given case is whether it falls within the scope of......
  • Butcher v. Rice
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 30, 1959
    ...refuses to act, that is not an act of discretion, but an arbitrary act, contrary to law. Interstate Commerce Commission v. United States, 224 U.S. 474, 32 S.Ct. 556, 56 L.Ed. 849; Huidekoper v. Hadley, 8 Cir., 177 F. 1, 40 L.R.A., N.S., 505. When a court compels a city to do its duty as def......
  • Davison Gulfport F. Co. v. Gulf & Ship Island R. Co., No. 8338.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 20, 1937
    ...exacted. Appellee urges upon us as conclusive of the question, Interstate Commerce Comm. v. United States ex rel. Humboldt Steamship Co., 224 U.S. 474, 32 S.Ct. 556, 56 L.Ed. 849, where the court held that the passage of the Hepburn Amendment had made the act completely comprehensive of the......
  • NEEDREPLACE, Civil Action No. 13–cv–02586–CMA–CBS
    • United States
    • New York District Court
    • December 31, 2013
    ...failure to consider exercising discretion. Mandamus relief may also be available. See, e.g., ICC v. U.S. ex rel. Humboldt S.S. Co., 224 U.S. 474, 483–84, 32 S.Ct. 556, 56 L.Ed. 849 (1912) (affirming an appellate court's issuance of a writ of mandamus for the Interstate Commerce Commission t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
66 cases
  • Standard Oil Co. of California v. United States, No. 8985.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 2, 1940
    ...not complete when the reference is to administrative officials or bodies. See Interstate Commerce Commission v. Humboldt Steamship Co., 224 U.S. 474, 484, 32 S.Ct. 556, 56 L.Ed. 849. In relation to administrative agencies, the question in a given case is whether it falls within the scope of......
  • Butcher v. Rice
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 30, 1959
    ...refuses to act, that is not an act of discretion, but an arbitrary act, contrary to law. Interstate Commerce Commission v. United States, 224 U.S. 474, 32 S.Ct. 556, 56 L.Ed. 849; Huidekoper v. Hadley, 8 Cir., 177 F. 1, 40 L.R.A., N.S., 505. When a court compels a city to do its duty as def......
  • Davison Gulfport F. Co. v. Gulf & Ship Island R. Co., No. 8338.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 20, 1937
    ...exacted. Appellee urges upon us as conclusive of the question, Interstate Commerce Comm. v. United States ex rel. Humboldt Steamship Co., 224 U.S. 474, 32 S.Ct. 556, 56 L.Ed. 849, where the court held that the passage of the Hepburn Amendment had made the act completely comprehensive of the......
  • NEEDREPLACE, Civil Action No. 13–cv–02586–CMA–CBS
    • United States
    • New York District Court
    • December 31, 2013
    ...failure to consider exercising discretion. Mandamus relief may also be available. See, e.g., ICC v. U.S. ex rel. Humboldt S.S. Co., 224 U.S. 474, 483–84, 32 S.Ct. 556, 56 L.Ed. 849 (1912) (affirming an appellate court's issuance of a writ of mandamus for the Interstate Commerce Commission t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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