Interstate Commerce Commission v. Nav Co

Decision Date09 January 1933
Docket NumberOREGON-WASHINGTON,No. 23,23
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of Oregon.

Messrs. J. Stanley Payne, of Washington, D.C., and I. H. Van Winkle, of Salem, Or., for appellant Interstate Commerce Commission.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 15-20 intentionally omitted] Mr. Wm. C. McCulloch, of Portland, Or., for appellant Public Utility Commissioner of Oregon.

Mr. James M. Thompson, of Boise, Idaho, for appellant Public Utilities Commission of Idaho.

Mr. Arthur C. Spencer, of Portland, Or., for appellee Oregon-Washington R. & Nav. Co.

Mr. Ben. C. Dey, of Portland, Or., for appellee Southern Pac. Co.

Messrs. James M. Souby, of Omaha, Neb., and Alfred A. Hampson, of Portland, Or., for other appellees.

Mr. Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Public Service Commission of Oregon filed a complaint with the Interstate Commerce Commission, against eleven railroads, including the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company, asserting they had failed and refused to provide reasonable and adequate transportation facilities to an area of some 33,000 square miles within the state. The prayer was that one or more of them be required to extend or build a line of railroad from a point near Crane to Crescent Lake or some adjacent point. Several municipalities and commercial organizations, and the Public Utilities Commission of Idaho, were given leave to be heard in support of the petition. The respondents answered that public necessity and con- venience would not be served by the proposed construction, and that there was no authority in law for granting the requested relief. After hearing, the Commission entered an order requiring Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company to 'extend its line of railroad, now terminating near Burns, Oreg., from, or near, a station thereon designated as Crane, Oreg., to a connection with the Cascade line of the Southern Pacific Company at, or near, Crescent Lake, Oreg.'1

The Oregon-Washington Company thereupon filed a petition against the United States, in the District Court, to set aside, annul, and suspend the order, and to enjoin the government, its officers and agents, from enforcing the Commission's mandate. The Southern Pacific Company intervened in support of the petition, and the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Public Utilities Commissioner (the successor of the Public Service Commission) of Oregon, and the Public Utilities Commission of Idaho, were permitted to intervene, and participated in the defense of the suit. From a decree setting aside the order and granting an injunction, the three intervening defendants appealed. The United States refused to join in the appeal, and a summons and severance was duly served upon it. The appellees insist that if we should reverse the decree as to the appellants the United States would remain bound by its terms; that we may not pass upon the merits in the absence of the government, a necessary party, and should therefore dismiss the appeal for want of jurisdiction. We shall first dispose of the question thus presented.

Before the Commerce Court was established, suits to enjoin orders of the Commission were brought against that body, and appeals from the judgments rendered were prosecuted by it, in its own name.2 The Act of June 18, 1910,3 created the Commerce Court, defined the jurisdiction and regulated the procedure of that tribunal, and authorized a direct appeal to this court. The Urgent Deficiencies Act,4 under which this suit was instituted, abolished the Commerce Court, transferred the jurisdiction theretofore vested in it to the several District Courts, and made the procedure therein the same as that previously followed in the Commerce Court. Existing statutes were repealed only in so far as inconsistent with the new jurisdiction conferred on district courts.5

Section 4 of the Commerce Court Act (36 Stat. 542, see 28 USCA § 48) directed:

'That all cases and proceedings in the commerce court (now District Court) which but for this Act would be brought by or against the Interstate Commerce Commission shall be brought by or against the United States, and the United States may intervene in any case or proceeding in the commerce court (District Court) whenever, though it has not been made a party, public interests are involved.'

Other sections permit the Commission, or complainants before the Commission, or any party in interest in a proceeding before that body, or any other interested party, to become parties to a suit involving the validity of an order of the Commission; forbid the Attorney General to control, dispose of, or discontinue the suit against the objection of any one as becoming a party; allow the intervener to prosecute, defend, or continue the proceeding unaffected by the action or nonaction of the Attorney General; and accord to any aggrieved party the right of appeal to this court.6

The Commission, by entering its appearance in the District Court, became a party defendant, as did the two State Utilities Commissions. The court below decided adversely to all these bodies. They are aggrieved parties granted a review by section 2; the Interstate Commerce Commission for the reason that the decree set aside its order the state commissions because they officially represent the interest of their states in obtaining adequate transportation service.

Through the present appellants were parties in the court below, as of right, and not by grace or favor, were aggrieved by the decree, and have a right of appeal, the appellees maintain this court may not hear and decide the case in the absence of the United States. While admitting interveners' right to be heard as to the substance of the decree the District Court entered against the government, the appellees assert the appellants have no standing in this court to ask modification or reversal of the decree as it affects the United States when the latter seeks no review.

We may concede that, unless the act so directs, a reversal at the suit of the appellants will not affect the judgment as respects the United States. The injunction will stand as against the United States and its agents, because unchallenged by that defendant. Summons and severance does not cure the defect, for, though the United States has been severed by that process, if this court should reverse the decree as to other parties, but allow it to remain in force against the government, the appeal would be a vain thing. The appellants, however, contend that the legislation creates an exception to the ordinary rule governing our jurisdiction. They assert that the purpose of Congress is to permit proper parties in the District Court to carry the litigation to a final conclusion in this court.

The statute clearly provides that, in the trial of the case, the intervening parties shall not be foreclosed by the action or nonaction of the Attorney General. Even though he concludes not to defend, they are permitted to do so. If, notwithstanding their defense, a decree goes against them and the United States, can it have been the purpose of Congress that the failure of the Attorney General to prosecute an appeal concludes such interveners? We think not. So to hold would render meaningless and superfluous section 2 of the act, which permits a review of the action of the court below 'if appeal to the Supreme Court be taken by an aggrieved party. * * *' The section can be given effect only by holding that an aggrieved party may challenge the decree not only to vindicate his own rights, but those of the United States as well. Congress evidently intended the Attorney General should represent and protect the interests of the United States as such, but should not at any stage control the litigation against the objection of the other parties and to their disadvantage, and that any aggrieved party might obtain a decree which the United States could have secured had it defended the action or prosecuted an appeal.

This conclusion is confirmed by comparing the form of section 5 of the Commerce Court Act as first presented and as subsequently altered by amendment. The section as originally introduced precluded the Commission and its attorneys from taking any part in suits brought to review its orders. This provision was stricken out in committee. The clause giving the Attorney General control of such cases was also modified. The stated purpose of the amendments was to prevent his forestalling the Commission or any other interested party desiring to litigate the questions involved.7 The movers of the amendments which were ultimately incorporated in the act insisted that a party affected by the order should have the right to follow the case 'through the Commerce Court and Supreme Court,' and that 'A party litigant should always have the right to follow his case to final judgment.'

An official may be designated to stand injudgment on behalf of the United States, so that a decree against him binds the government.8 As has been stated, this was the accepted practice in suits by and against the Commission prior to the adoption of the Commerce Court Act. The new legislation might have left the rights of the United States arising out of orders of the Commission to be thus determined in the court of first instance and on appeal. But Congress had undoubted power, in naming the United States as the defendant in such suits, to give the Commission, and others having an interest authority to litigate the validity of such orders, and, regardless of joinder by the Attorney General, to obtain by appeal a review effective as to the United States. The act plainly exhibits this purpose. Should a reversal be required, the mandate may vacate the judgment against the United States though it did not join in the appeal. We think that review may not...

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