New York Central Railroad Company v. United States

Decision Date19 December 1961
Citation200 F. Supp. 944
PartiesNEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America and Interstate Commerce Commission, Defendants, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, Canton Railroad Company, Western Maryland Railway Company, Maryland Port Authority, Baltimore Association of Commerce, and the Delaware River Port Authority, Intervening Defendants. ERIE-LACKAWANNA RAILROAD COMPANY and the Port of New York Authority, Plaintiffs v. UNITED STATES of America and Interstate Commerce Commission, Defendants and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, Canton Railroad Company, Western Maryland Railway Company, Maryland Port Authority, Baltimore Association of Commerce, and the Delaware River Port Authority, Intervening Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Sidney Goldstein, New York City and Samuel H. Moerman, Washington, D. C. (M. C. Smith, Jr., J. T. Clark, Cleveland, Ohio, F. A. Mulhern, Newark, N. J., and Patrick J. Falvey, New York City, Arthur L. Winn, Jr., Washington, D. C., J. Raymond Clark, Philadelphia, Pa., and James M. Henderson, Washington, D. C., of counsel), for Erie-Lackawanna R. Co. and Port of New York Authority, plaintiffs.

Richard J. Murphy, Chicago, Ill., George J. Schwarz, New York City (Gerald E. Dwyer, Robert D. Brooks, New York City, of counsel), for New York Cent. R. Co., plaintiff.

Robert M. Morgenthau, U. S. Atty., by Robert M. Hausman, New York City, for United States of America and Interstate Commerce Commission, defendants.

Donald M. Dunn, New York City, and Franklin G. Allen, Baltimore, Md. (William L. Marbury, John C. Cooper, III, Baltimore, Md., Donald Macleay, Washington, D. C., J. Crossman Cooper, Jr., Baltimore, Md., Karl J. Grimm, Baltimore, Md., of counsel), for Baltimore & O. R. Co., Canton R. Co., Western Maryland R. Co., Maryland Port Authority and Baltimore Ass'n of Commerce, intervening defendants.

Warren Price, Jr., Washington, D. C. (David Hartfield, Jr., New York City, Morris Duane, Philadelphia, Pa., Francis W. Sullivan, Philadelphia, Pa., Bruce A. Wallace, Camden, N. J., of counsel), for Delaware River Port Authority, intervening defendant.

Before FRIENDLY, Circuit Judge, and METZNER and FEINBERG, District Judges.

FRIENDLY, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs, in one the New York Central R. R. Co. and in the other the Erie-Lackawanna R. R. Co. and the Port of New York Authority, have brought these actions to enjoin so much of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission as directs the plaintiff carriers to cancel proposed tariffs that would have reduced the rates on imported iron ore from New York to steel-producing centers in eastern Ohio and in West Virginia to the same level as those established from Baltimore and Philadelphia.1 In compliance with 28 U.S.C. § 2284, Judge Metzner requested that two other judges be designated to serve with him. The Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co., other railroads serving Baltimore, the Maryland Port Authority, the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, and the Delaware River Port Authority (sometimes hereafter "the Baltimore interests"), having intervened to support the order as here questioned, have moved that these actions be transferred to the District Court for the District of Maryland pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Plaintiffs oppose a transfer; on the argument the United States and the Interstate Commerce Commission took "a neutral position." Although the motion could be decided by a single judge in the first instance, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2284(5), 2325, his action would be reviewable by the full court under § 2284(5). Hence, as requested by the parties, the court of three judges has considered the motion. We conclude it should be denied.

A simplified statement of the long background is as follows: Historically the rail rates on imported iron ore from Atlantic ports to Central Freight Association territory were lower from Baltimore than from Philadelphia and lower from Philadelphia than from New York. In 1953 the roads serving Philadelphia and New York filed tariffs reducing their rates to the Baltimore level. Baltimore interests protested; also, as an alternative means of preserving the historic differentials, the carriers serving Baltimore filed proposed reductions. The Commission suspended all the tariffs. Ultimately it approved the reductions proposed for New York and Philadelphia and disapproved those with which the Baltimore carriers had countered, thereby permitting parity among the three ports.2 The Baltimore interests sued in the District of Maryland to enjoin the orders; the New York and Philadelphia interests intervened to support them. In 1957 a court of three judges, in a comprehensive opinion by Judge Soper, set aside the orders insofar as they approved parity for New York and remanded for further findings with respect to parity for Philadelphia (save in one respect as to which it affirmed). Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co. v. United States, 151 F.Supp. 258 (D.Md.1957). The Supreme Court, believing "that, in reconsidering the relationship between the Philadelphia and Baltimore schedules pursuant to the remand of the District Court, the Commission should be free to reconsider and take action upon the New York schedules," vacated so much of the District Court's order as had set aside the approval of the reduced rates from New York, and included the New York rates in the remand to the Commission, I. C. C. v. Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co., 355 U.S. 175, 78 S.Ct. 189, 191, 2 L.Ed.2d 183 (1957).

On the remand, the Commission, on June 15, 1961, in the order cited in fn. 1, reverted to the position that had been taken by Division 2 in 1954, namely, a provision of parity as between Baltimore and Philadelphia but a requirement of higher rates from New York. Eleven days later the Baltimore interests sued in the District of Maryland to set aside the order insofar as it permitted the Philadelphia rates to be reduced to the Baltimore level; naturally they tendered no issue with respect to the New York rates, as to which they had prevailed.3 On July 20, the Central and, on July 25, the Erie-Lackawanna and the Port of New York Authority brought these actions in the Southern District of New York to enjoin the portion of the order forbidding reduction of the New York rates. There followed the interventions and motions to transfer on the part of the Baltimore interests recounted above.

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides that "For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." Since a suit to enjoin an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission is a "civil action", over which 28 U.S.C. § 1336 gives the district courts jurisdiction, we have no doubt that such a suit may be transferred under § 1404 (a) if the statutory conditions are met.4 Meeting them, however, presents problems quite different from the usual case. Here there are no "witnesses" to be convenienced. Although a transfer to Maryland would convenience the intervenors, both in getting back home and by having only one suit instead of two, it would equally inconvenience the plaintiffs who would be taken away from home and forced into a suit involving issues in which they profess to have no concern; and the United States and the Commission say they do not care. Indeed, the Baltimore interests do not rest their case for transfer on that basis; they rely rather on the familiarity of the District Court for Maryland with the issues, the possible necessity of interpreting that court's 1957 opinion, and what they regard as the undesirability of a decision in this District that would run counter to the views the Maryland court expressed in the previous case or may express in discussing other issues in the one now pending.5 They say, in other words, that the transfer would be "in the interest of justice" even though not shown to be warranted "for the convenience of parties and witnesses" in the ordinary sense of those terms. Assuming in intervenors' favor that a transfer under § 1404(a) may be directed solely on that account6 although the letter of the section might suggest otherwise, and also that a sufficient case to that end has here been made, we nevertheless are compelled to deny the motion because the District of Maryland was not a district where these actions "might have been brought."

28 U.S.C. § 1398, a part of Chapter 87 entitled, "District Courts; Venue", directs that "Except as otherwise provided by law, any civil action to enforce, suspend or set aside in whole or in part an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission shall be brought only in the judicial district wherein is the residence or principal office of any of the parties bringing such action."7 None of the plaintiffs in the actions in the Southern District of New York has its residence or principal office in the District of Maryland. Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 80 S.Ct. 1084, 1085, 4 L.Ed.2d 1254 (1960), ruled against a claim that an action "might have been brought" in a district where a defendant seeking transfer could not have been served with process and would have had a valid venue objection, although by his motion he accepted the jurisdiction of, and forewent objection to venue in, the proposed transferee court. We do not read the opinion as limited to cases presenting such a conjunction of jurisdiction and venue deficiencies; it approved, p. 344, 80 S.Ct. p. 1090, the statement of the Seventh Circuit, 260 F.2d 317, at 321, and Behimer v. Sullivan, 261 F.2d 467, at 469, that the statutory test is met only "If when a suit is commenced, plaintiff has a right to sue in that district, independently of the wishes of defendant." Cf. Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 80 S.Ct. 1470, 4 L.Ed.2d 1540 (1960). Neither do we see any valid basis for distinction in the fact that, in the two cases dealt with by the Supreme Court in Hoff...

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