Public Service Commission v. City of Indianapolis, No. 29266

Docket NºNo. 29266
Citation131 N.E.2d 308, 235 Ind. 70
Case DateJanuary 11, 1956
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 308

131 N.E.2d 308
235 Ind. 70, 12 P.U.R.3d 320
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION of Indiana, Warren Buchanan, M.
Elliot Belshaw, and Wendell Tennis, as Members of
the Public Service Commission of
Indiana, and Indianapolis
Water Company, Appellants,
v.
CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS, Appellee.
No. 29266.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
Jan. 11, 1956.

[235 Ind. 75]

Page 309

Edwin K. Steers, Atty. Gen., J. D. Wright, Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellants Public Service Commission and its Members.

Joseph J. Daniels, G. R. Redding, John L. Woolling, Indianapolis, Baker & Daniels, Indianapolis, of counsel, for appellant Indianapolis Water Co.

George R. Jeffrey, Palmer K. Ward, Indianapolis, for appellee.

ARTERBURN, Judge.

This is an appeal from an action brought by the appellee, City of Indianapolis, in the Superior Court of Marion County, to set aside and enjoin an enforcement of an order of appellant, Public Service Commission of Indiana. The history of this case is as follows:

The order of the Commission was the result of a proceeding originally commenced by the appellant, Indianapolis Water Company, on September 18, 1953, when it filed with the Commission its petition for the approval of a new rate schedule to be charged for service. The petition also asks for authority to change the rate on which its reserve for depreciation was computed. City of Indianapolis intervened in this original proceeding before the Commission. On March 18, 1954, after hearing, the Commission entered its order approving a new schedule of rates and fixing a new rate for depreciation.

[235 Ind. 76] The City thereupon commenced this action against the Commission in the Superior Court of Marion County, to vacate that order and enjoin the Commission. The Indianapolis Water Company intervened as a defendant therein. Trial was commenced on September 20, 1954. At the close of the hearing on the application for temporary injunction, the trial court found no necessity to enjoin the Commission at that time but ordered that the amount collected

Page 310

as the result of the new rate increase be held by the Company available for the final decision in the case.

Pursuant to the direction of the trial court the City perfected a statutory appeal from the Commission's order and the same was consolidated with the injunction action. The consolidated action was heard by the Superior Court of Marion County in banc on the merits. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found that evidence presented was materially different from that which had been offered during the proceedings before the Commission, and directed that all such additional and new evidence presented to the court be transmitted to the Commission for its reconsideration, as provided in Acts 1929, ch. 169, § 8, p. 530, being § 54-436, Burns' 1951 Replacement.

The Commission, after reviewing the additional evidence which concerns solely the amount of return on the rate base used, affirmed its earlier determination of fair value and return, but found that the annual gross revenues under the new schedule of rates would be approximately $111,000 in excess of the amount required to produce the income to which the Commission found the Company was entitled. Accordingly, the Commission modified its order and directed the Water Company to file a schedule of rates designed to produce gross income in the amount estimated in the [235 Ind. 77] original order and duly certified and reported its action to the Superior Court of Marion County.

Thereafter, on February 7, 1954, the Superior Court of Marion County reconsidered the order of the Commission and there being no additional evidence introduced, the trial court set aside the Commission's order, and rendered a decision in favor of the City, holding the modified order of the Commission to be unreasonable and unlawful. A judgment of the trial court was entered vacating the Commission's order permanently enjoining the Commission from enforcing such order or any modification thereof, permanently enjoining the Commission from charging the rates fixed by such order, and requiring the Company to refund to the consumers the amount collected in excess of rates existing at the time the application was originally made to the Commission for an increase.

Upon the resubmission of the Commission's modified order to the trial court, no additional evidence was introduced and the Commission moved that the pending action be dismissed on the ground that there was no showing that it was not supported by substantial evidence. The trial court denied this motion, and entered a special finding of fact consisting of thirty-four items with conclusions of law thereon, and rendered judgment against the Commission and Water Company and in favor of the City, as stated above. Motions for a new trial were filed by the parties against whom the findings and judgments were rendered. The assignment of errors is based upon the overruling of the motions for a new trial. The motion asserted that the decision of the trial court was not sustained by sufficient evidence and was contrary to law, and on the part of the Commission, that the court erred in overruling its motion to dismiss.

[235 Ind. 78] This is an action brought under the statutes by the City for the purpose of testing whether or not the Commission in fixing the rates and making the order in question kept within its jurisdiction, and conformed to the standards fixed by the statute.

The present case is brought by the appellee, under the following statutory provisions:

'Any person, firm, association, corporation, city, town or public utility adversely affected by any decision, ruling, order, determination, requirement or direction of the public service commission may commence an action in the circuit or superior court of any county in which the portion of the utility which is the subject-matter of the procedure before the public service commission operates or seeks to operate, against the commission to vacate

Page 311

or set aside or enjoin the enforcement of any such decision, ruling, order, determination, requirement or direction, on the ground that the same is insufficient, unreasonable, unlawful, or procured by fraud or other unlawful methods.' Acts 1929, ch. 169, § 1, p. 530, being § 54-429, Burns' 1951 Replacement.

'Any single municipality or any ten (10) consumers or any utility affected by a rate order may within thirty (30) days from the rendition thereof by the commission take an appeal de novo to the circuit court of the county in which the utility is located or the general term of the superior court of Marion County.' Acts 1913, ch. 76, § 9, p. 167, 1933, ch. 190, § 4, p. 928, 1947, ch. 307, § 1, p. 1251 being § 54-203 Burns' 1951 Replacement.

What, then, is the scope of the court's statutory review? In other words, may the court impose its own idea of what is 'insufficient' or 'unreasonable' in the place of that of the Commission?

The City makes the contention that this is 'an appeal de novo' under the statute and the trial court [235 Ind. 79] thereby has the opportunity to weigh the evidence and substitute its opinion for that of the Commission. We, as judges, are subjected to the same natural desires and to the same weaknesses that all men have to substitute our personal judgment for that of others, and we must guard against such inclinations. Where the legislature has created a factfinding body of experts in another branch of the government, their decision or findings should not be lightly overridden and set aside because we, as judges, might reach a contrary opinion on the same evidence. So long as the experts act within the limits of the discretion given them by the statute, their decision is final. The question raised here was thoroughly reviewed and decided by Judge Treanor in the case of New York, C. & St. L. R. Co. v. Singleton, 1935, 207 Ind. 449, 190 N.E. 761, certiorari denied 296 U.S. 578, 56 S.Ct. 89, 80 L.Ed. 409. This court declared that the expression 'appeal de novo' as used in the act under which the City brings this action does not have the same meaning as used in cases of an appeal from the justice of peace to a circuit court. In the latter situation the case on appeal stands in the circuit court as if it had been originally commenced in that court. No legal effect is given to the trial before the justice of peace. Just the opposite is true where an 'appeal' is taken from the order of the Public Service Commission.

Acts 1941, ch. 101, § 5, p. 255, being § 54-112, Burns' 1951 Replacement, creating the Commission, provides:

'The commission created by this act (§§ 54-102, 54-109-54-120) shall in all controversial proceedings heard by it be an impartial fact-finding body and shall make its orders in such cases upon the facts impartially found by it. The commission shall in no such proceeding, during the hearing, act in [235 Ind. 80] the role either of a proponent or opponent on any issue to be decided by it.'

Acts 1913, ch. 76, § 84, p. 167, being § 54-439, Burns' 1951 Replacement, provides:

'The burden of proof shall be upon the party adverse to such commission or seeking to set aside any determination, * * * or order of the commission, complained of is unreasonable or unlawful, as the case may be.'

Another statute that is pertinent hereto reads as follows:

'All rates, tolls, charges, schedules and joint rates fixed by the commission shall be in force and be prima facie lawful, and all regulations, practices and services prescribed by the commission shall be in force and shall be prima facie reasonable unless finally found otherwise in a action brought for that purpose pursuant to the provisions of sections seventy-eight to eighty-five.' Acts 1913, ch. 76, § 77, p. 167, being § 54-428, Burns' 1951 Replacement.

Page 312

The appellee, City of Indianapolis, has the burden, in the case before us, of overcoming the prima facie reasonableness of the Commission's presumptive impartial finding and...

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127 practice notes
  • Davenport Water Co. v. Iowa State Commerce Commission, No. 54512
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 27, 1971
    ...Ill. 275, 290--291, 111 N.E.2d 329, 336--338, 98 P.U.R. (n.s.) 379, 389--390 (1953); Public Service Commission v. City of Indianapolis, 235 Ind. 70, 95, 131 N.E.2d 308, 315 (1956); Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Maryland v. Public Service Commission, 230 Md. 395, 187 A.2d 475 (......
  • Monon R. Co. v. Citizens of Sherwood Forest Addition, Marion County, No. 1268A218
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 27, 1970
    ...motion to dismiss was proper.' (our emphasis) In the case of Public Service Commission of Indiana, et al. v. City of Indianapolis (1956), 235 Ind. 70, 83, 131 N.E.2d 308, 313, the Supreme Court 'It is established law in this state that there is an inherent right to appeal to the courts for ......
  • City of Evansville v. Southern Indiana Gas & Elec. Co., AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • December 30, 1975
    ...and state common law principles governing judicial review of administrative action. In Public Serv. Comm'n v. City of Indianapolis (1956), 235 Ind. 70, 80--81, 131 N.E.2d 308, 312, Justice Arterburn explained the derivation of Indiana's 'substantial evidence' standard of judicial 'This rule......
  • Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Inc. v. Northern Indiana Public Service Co., Inc., No. 2-1082A357
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • December 27, 1984
    ...of the property upon which the utility rates are determined. Public Service Commission of Indiana v. City of Indianapolis, Page 942 (1956) 235 Ind. 70, 131 N.E.2d 308. In that case the court "A great amount of time and effort is expended by the City in attacking a former order of the Commis......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
127 cases
  • Davenport Water Co. v. Iowa State Commerce Commission, No. 54512
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 27, 1971
    ...Ill. 275, 290--291, 111 N.E.2d 329, 336--338, 98 P.U.R. (n.s.) 379, 389--390 (1953); Public Service Commission v. City of Indianapolis, 235 Ind. 70, 95, 131 N.E.2d 308, 315 (1956); Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Maryland v. Public Service Commission, 230 Md. 395, 187 A.2d 475 (......
  • Monon R. Co. v. Citizens of Sherwood Forest Addition, Marion County, No. 1268A218
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 27, 1970
    ...motion to dismiss was proper.' (our emphasis) In the case of Public Service Commission of Indiana, et al. v. City of Indianapolis (1956), 235 Ind. 70, 83, 131 N.E.2d 308, 313, the Supreme Court 'It is established law in this state that there is an inherent right to appeal to the courts for ......
  • City of Evansville v. Southern Indiana Gas & Elec. Co., AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • December 30, 1975
    ...and state common law principles governing judicial review of administrative action. In Public Serv. Comm'n v. City of Indianapolis (1956), 235 Ind. 70, 80--81, 131 N.E.2d 308, 312, Justice Arterburn explained the derivation of Indiana's 'substantial evidence' standard of judicial 'This rule......
  • Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Inc. v. Northern Indiana Public Service Co., Inc., No. 2-1082A357
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • December 27, 1984
    ...of the property upon which the utility rates are determined. Public Service Commission of Indiana v. City of Indianapolis, Page 942 (1956) 235 Ind. 70, 131 N.E.2d 308. In that case the court "A great amount of time and effort is expended by the City in attacking a former order of the C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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