Louisville Nashville Railroad Company v. Green Garrett

Decision Date01 December 1913
Docket NumberNo. 23,23
Citation58 L.Ed. 229,231 U.S. 298,34 S.Ct. 48
PartiesLOUISVILLE & NASHVILLE RAILROAD COMPANY, Appt., v. GREEN GARRETT et al., Individually and as Constituting the Railroad Commission of Kentucky
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 298-300 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Henry L. Stone, Albert S. Brandeis, William G. Dearing, and William A. Colston for appellant.

Messrs. Edward W. Hines, James Garnett, Charles

C. McChord, J. Van Norman, John F. Lockett, and Mr. James Breathitt, Attorney General of Kentucky, for appellees.

Mr. Justice Hughes delivered the opinion of the court:

This is an appeal from an order denying a motion for an interlocutory injunction. Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Siler, 186 Fed. 176. The motion was heard by three judges, and the appeal is taken under § 17 of the act of June 18, 1910, chap. 309, 36 Stat. at L. 539, 557.

The suit was brought by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, a corporation organized under the laws of Kentucky, to enjoin the enforcement of two orders made by the Railroad Commission of that state on August 10, 1910. One of these orders prescribed maximum freight rates for certain intrastate traffic; that is, for the transportation of corn, rye, barley, malt, empty barrels, boxes, etc., from three points of origin,—Louisville, Covington, and Newport,—to sixteen points of destination in Kentucky. The second order awarded specified amounts in reparation for payments previously made to the carrier for such transportation in excess of the rates found to be reasonable.

For many years, the railroad company had given special rates to the owners of distilleries along its lines in Kentucky for the transportation of the commodities above mentioned, which constituted their raw materials and supplies. These rates were withdrawn on March 25, 1910, and what are described as the standard rates of the company, that is, those which had theretofore been charged to others than distillers, were substituted. Thereupon, numerous distillery companies complained to the Railroad Commission of the state, insisting that the new rates were exorbitant and that the former rates were just and reasonable. After hearing, the commission sustained the contention of the petitioners, and fixed the maximum rates in question. These rates were the same as the special rates which, prior to March 25, 1910, the railroad company had given to the distillery companies; but, by the commission's order, the rates as fixed were made applicable to the transportation between the points stated, of the described commodities, without distinction as to persons or as to the use to be made of the commodities by the consignees.

The statute under which the commission acted, in establishing these rates, is that of March 10, 1900, known as the McChord act (Ky. Stat. § 820a, Carroll's ed. 1909). It provides in substance that when complaint shall be made to the Railroad Commission, accusing any railroad company of charging extortionate rates, or when the commission shall receive information or have reason to believe that such rates are being charged, it shall be its duty 'to hear and determine the matter as speedily as possible.' The commissioners are to give the company complained of not less than ten days' notice, stating the time and place of hearing and the nature of the complaint or matter to be investigated. They 'shall hear such statements, argument, or evidence offered by the parties as the commission may deem relevant, and should the commission determine that the company or corporation is, or has been, guilty of extortion, said commission shall make and fix a just and reasonable rate, toll, or compensation, which said railroad company or corporation may charge, collect, or receive for like services thereafter rendered.' The rate so fixed is to be entered as an order on the record book of the commission; a copy thereof is to be mailed to a representative of the railroad company

This statute is set forth in full in McChord v. Louisville & N. R. Co. 183 U. S. 483, 485, 46 L. ed. 289, 290, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 165, and in Siler v. Louisville & N. R. Co. 213 U. S. 175, 178-180, 53 L. ed. 753-755, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 451 affected, and it is to be 'in full force and effect at the expiration of ten days thereafter, and may be revoked or modified by an order likewise entered of record.' If the railroad company, or any officer, agent, or employee thereof, charges a greater rate for like services thereafter, 'said company . . . and said officer, agent, or employee, shall each be deemed guilty of extortion, and upon conviction shall be fined for the first offense in any sum not less than $500, nor more that $1,000, and upon a second conviction, in any sum not less than $1,000 nor more than $2,000, and for a third and succeeding conviction in any sum not less than $2,000 nor more than $5,000.' The circuit court, in the appropriate counties as prescribed by the statute, is to have jurisdiction of such prosecutions, which are to be by indictment.

The bill attacked the statute and the action of the commission, as violative of the rights secured to the complainant by the Federal Constitution. Objections were also made under the Constitution and statutes of the state. Demurrers were filed, but upon these no decision was made. The motion for preliminary injunction was heard upon bill and affidavits. In denying the motion, the court did not pass upon the validity of the second order, as it was of the opinion that those in whose favor the award of reparation had been made were 'necessary parties in interest;' these had not been brought in. 186 Fed. 176, 203.

First. The order fixing rates.

Because of the Federal questions raised by the bill the circuit court had jurisdiction and was authorized to determine all the questions in the case, local as well as Federal. Siler v. Louisville & N. R. Co. 213 U. S. 175, 191, 53 L. ed. 753, 757, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 451. A similar rule must be deemed to govern the application for preliminary injunction under the statute which requires a hearing before three judges, and authorizes an appeal to this court. 36 Stat. at L. 557, chap. 309. This statute applies to cases in which the preliminary injunction is sought in order to restrain the enforcement of a state enactment upon the ground of its 'unconstitutionality.' The reference, undoubtedly, is to an asserted conflict with the Federal Constitution, and the question of unconstitutionality, in this sense, must be a substantial one. But, where such a question is presented, the application is within the provision, and this being so, it cannot be supposed that it was the intention of Congress to compel the exclusion of other grounds, and thus to require a separate motion for preliminary injunction, and a separate hearing and appeal, with respect to the local questions which are involved in the case, and would properly be the subject of consideration in determining the propriety of granting an injunction pending suit. The local questions arising under the state Constitution and statutes were therefore before the circuit court and the appeal brings them here. They may be first considered.

1. It is objected that the act of March 10, 1900, violates §§ 27, 28, 109, and 135 of the state Constitution by under-

The provisions referred to are as follows:

'Section 27. The powers of the government of the commonwealth of Kentucky shall be divided into three distinct departments, and each of them be confined to a separate body of magistracy, to wit: Those which are legislative to one; those which are executive to another; and those which are judicial to another.

'Section 28. No person, or collection of persons, being of one of those departments, shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others, except in the instances hereinafter expressly directed or permitted.'

'Section 109. The judicial power of the commonwealth, both as to matters of law and equity, shall be vested in the senate when sitting as a court of impeachment, and one supreme court (to be styled the court of appeals), and the courts established by this Constitution.'

'Section 135. No courts save those provided for in this Constitution shall be established.' taking to confer judicial powers upon the commission. By these sections, provision is explicitly made for three distinct departments of government; the judicial power of the commonwealth is vested in the courts established by the Constitution, and no judicial power can be exercised by any other officer except those thus named unless authorized by some other provision of that instrument. Roberts v. Hackney, 109 Ky. 265, 268, 58 S. W. 810, 59 S. W. 328; Pratt v. Breckinridge, 112 Ky. 1, 65 S. W. 136, 66 S. W. 405.

So far as we are advised, the court of appeals of Kentucky has not passed upon the validity of the act in question; and this court has often expressed its reluctance to adjudge a state statute to be in conflict with the Constitution of the state before that question has been considered by the state tribunals, to which it properly belongs,—unless the case imperatively demands such a decision. Pelton v. Commercial Nat. Bank, 101 U. S. 143, 144, 25 L. ed. 901; Michigan C. R. Co. v. Powers, 201 U. S. 245, 291, 50 L. ed. 744, 760, 26 Sup. Ct. Rep. 459. Here, the argument against the statute is not of that compelling character.

It has frequently been pointed out that prescribing rates for the future is an act legislative, and not judicial, in kind. Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati, N. O. & T. P. R. Co. 167 U. S. 479, 499, 42 L. ed. 243, 253, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 896; McChord v. Louisville & N. R. Co. 183 U. S. 483, 495, 46 L. ed. 289, 295, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 165; Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line Co. 211 U. S. 210, 226, 53 L. ed. 150, 158, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 67; Knoxville v. Knoxville Water Co. 212 U. S. 1, 8, 53 L. ed. 371, 378, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 148. It pertains, broadly speaking, to the...

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