Pittsburgh Ry Co v. United States

Decision Date19 May 1930
Docket NumberNo. 680,680
Citation281 U.S. 479,74 L.Ed. 980,50 S.Ct. 378
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 479-481 intentionally omitted] Messrs. H. H. Hoppe and C. F. Taplin, both of Cleveland, Ohio, for appellant.

The Attorney General, and Messrs. Nelson Thomas, of Washington, D. C., and Andrew P. Martin, of Cleveland, Ohio, for respondents.

Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1921, the Interstate Commerce Commission authorized the New York Central Railroad and other rail car- riers to join in establishing a union passenger station at Cleveland, through a subsidiary, the Cleveland Union Terminals Company.1 The Cleveland Passenger Terminal Case, 70 I. C. C. 659. The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company had for some years owned and maintained an independent passenger station at Ontario street in Cleveland in the line of the easterly approach to the proposed union terminal. It was apparent from the outset that either ownership of or an easement in the Wheeling's site would be indispensable in order to provide the necessary easterly approach to the terminal.2 Long negotiations culminated in a plan whereby the Wheeling consented to sell its site and become a tenant in the new terminal at an annual rental of $20,000. Contracts were made embodying this plan, subject to approval of the Interstate Commerce Commission.3

Thereupon, the Wheeling filed before the Commission two applications for certificates of public convenicence and necessity, one permitting it to abandon its Ontario Street station,4 the other authorizing it to use the facilities of the union terminal and, pending its completion, to use the facilities of the station of the Erie Railroad and the tracks of the Big Four. These applications were heard together as one case. The Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railway, a minority stockholder and connecting carrier of the Wheeling, was permitted to intervene and was heard in opposition to the applications. It opposed them on the grounds that the Ontario Street Station was ample for both the present and future needs of the Wheeling; that the Wheeling's applications were authorized by directors elected by the votes of stock owned in violation of the Clayton Act (38 Stat. 730) by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the New York Central, and the Nickel Plate (Interstate Commerce Commission v. Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co., 152 I. C. C. 721); that the contracts executed by the Wheeling were made without first securing the consent of its stockholders, as required by the laws of Ohio; that the Wheeling's directors were interested in the union terminal project, and did not give the Wheeling the benefit of their unbiased judgment; that the price to be paid the Wheeling for its site was inadequate and not the best price obtainable; that the Terminals Company is a common carrier whose rates are subject to regulation; that the yearly rental to be paid by the Wheeling is unduly low and unreasonably preferential of the Wheeling; that it is therefore subject to be increased by the Interstate Commerce Commission; and that, if increased so as to eliminate the preference, it would confessedly be much more than the Wheeling could afford to pay and would imperil its financial condition.

The Commission held that the violation of the Clayton Act was immaterial since the election of the directors occurred prior to the Commission's finding of violation, and the finding was not made retroactive; that it lacked jurisdiction to pass upon the alleged violations of Ohio law or upon the adequacy of the price agreed to be paid for the Wheeling's site; that, under paragraph 4 of section 3 of the Interstate Commerce Act (49 USCA § 3(4), the agreed rental for the Wheeling's use of the Union Station was not subject to be increased by it; and that, in view of all the circumstances, the rental was not unduly preferential of the Wheeling. It found that public convenience and necessity would be served by the granting of both applications; and accordingly issued its certificate as prayed for. Operation of Passenger Terminal Facilities at Cleveland, Ohio, by Wheeling & Lake Erie Ry. Co., 154 I. C. C. 516.

The Pittsburgh & West Virginia then brought this suit in the District Court for Northern Ohio, Eastern Division. It joined as defendants the Wheeling, the Erie, the Big Four, the Terminals Company, the Building Company, the Interstate Commerce Commission and the United States. The purpose of the suit, as stated in the complaint, was two-fold: First, to enjoin the Wheeling from abandoning its Ontario Street Station and from performing its contracts with the other defendants; secondly, to set aside and annul the order of the Interstate Commerce Commission granting the certificate of public convenience and necessity. Separate relief was prayed for accordingly. As against the Wheeling, the prayer was founded on the several grounds advanced before the Commission. As against the United States and the Commission, on the additional ground that the order was based on erroneous conclusions of law, to wit, that the Commission had no jurisdiction to pass on the adequacy of the price to be paid for the land and on the alleged violations of the laws of Ohio; that the Wheeling's directors were competent to act for it in this matter; and that the rental agreed to be paid by the Wheeling for the use of the union terminal facilities was not subject to be increased by the Commission.

The Pittsburgh moved for an interlocutory injunction. As the bill sought to suspend and set aside an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the District Judge called to his assistance two additional judges pursuant to the Urgent Deficiencies Act, October 22, 1913, c. 32, 38 Stat. 208, 219, 220 (28 USCA § 47). By consent of the parties, the case was then heard, as upon final hearing;5 and the court entered a final decree dismissing the bill on the merits as to both classes of relief prayed for. It declared, however, that the questions concerning the alleged violation of Ohio law, the competency of the Wheeling's directors, and the other grounds of attack on the Wheeling's action were not properly before it as a three judge court. But, since diversity of citizenship existed and the District Judge concurred in the judgment, the court passed on them and reserved to appellant the right to sever these issues for purposes of appeal and treat its decision on them as the decision of a single judge. Pittsburgh & West Virginia Ry. Co. v. United States, 41 F.(2d) 806. Appellant did not avail itself of this privilege, but prosecuted a direct appeal to this Court from the whole decree. It repeats here the several grounds of attack urged before the District Court. We have no occasion to consider the merits of the controversy. For we are of opinion that appellant had no standing to bring this suit as one to set aside an order of the Commission; and that, in so far as the suit may be treated as one within the general equity jurisdiction of the District Court, we have no jurisdiction on a direct appeal to review its decision.

First. The District Court held that the appellant was entitled to bring this suit under the Urgent Deficiencies Act to set aside the order, because it had intervened in the...

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