Railroad Commission of Alabama v. Northern Alabama Ry. Co.

Citation182 Ala. 357,62 So. 749
Decision Date12 June 1913
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama

Rehearing Denied June 30, 1913

Appeal from City Court of Montgomery; Gaston Gunter, Judge.

Suit by the Northern Alabama Railway Company against the Alabama Railroad Commission to enjoin the enforcement of an order requiring the construction of a union passenger depot. From a decree for complainant, defendant appeals. Reversed and rendered.

The order of the railroad commission was that the several railroad companies, to wit, the Kansas City, Memphis &amp Birmingham Railroad Company, the Illinois Central Railroad Company, and the Northern Alabama Railroad Company, being unable to agree upon a location for a passenger station (union) as required by former order of the commission "the commission did visit the city of Jasper, and after hearing the evidence and representations offered by said railroad companies, do order and direct that the said union passenger station be constructed by defendants and be located and built upon a certain tract of land fully described in the order, and that the railroad companies jointly or severally proceed to acquire by purchase or condemnation the site designated. In the event of a failure to agree within the time allowed, that the Kansas City, Memphis & Birmingham Railroad Company, proceed to acquire by purchase or condemnation such parcel of land and to make and adopt plans for the erection of said station and make report of the same to the next meeting of the commission, and upon the adoption of such plans and the erection of such buildings, it is further ordered that the several railroad companies herein mentioned will enter and use the same upon such terms as may be agreed upon by all." The order contained other matters not necessary to be here set out. The bill avers that the complainant has its own joint freight and passenger depot almost in the heart of the town of Jasper, and had arranged and agreed before the order of the commission to build a new and larger joint station and had its plans prepared to that end, when a controversy arose between it and the citizens of Jasper as to the exact location of its new depot. The bill avers that the order of the commission is so unreasonable and arbitrary that it deprived complainant of its property without due process of law in violation of the Constitution of Alabama and of the United States, and on that ground, and others set up in the bill, the order is null and void. The trial court granted a preliminary injunction, and on final hearing granted a permanent injunction restraining the order of the railroad commission, and the commission appeals.

R.C Brickell, Atty. Gen., and W.L. Martin, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellant.

Bankhead & Bankhead, of Jasper, and J.T. Stokeley, of Birmingham, for appellee.


Article 12 of the Constitution of 1901, composed of sections 242-246 deals with railroads and canals, and section 243 provides in part as follows: "The power and authority of regulating railroad freight and passenger tariffs, the locating and building of passenger and freight depots, correcting abuses, *** are hereby conferred upon the Legislature, whose duty it shall be to pass laws," etc. The Legislature, availing itself of this constitutional provision, created a railroad commission and enacted laws for the purpose of compelling obedience to the mandate of our organic law. Section 5543 of the Code of 1907 requires every railroad in this state, on the order of the railroad commission, to provide, construct, and maintain adequate depots and depot buildings for the accommodation of passengers and for receiving and handling freight, where public necessity demands it, and the revenue at such point will be sufficient to justify it. Section 5545 authorizes the railroad commission, when any two or more railroads enter any city or town, to require a union passenger depot when practicable, or when the necessities of the case in the judgment of the railroad commission demands it. It also authorizes the commission to require the different railroads to unite in the joint undertaking and expense of erecting, constructing, and maintaining such union passenger stations on such terms, regulations, provisions, and conditions as said railroad commission may prescribe, and provides a penalty for a default.

The object of the constitutional provisions and these legislative enactments was to give proper protection to the traveling public against inconvenient and inadequate depot facilities. "It was not expected that the Legislature should do more than pass laws to accomplish the ends in view. When this was done, its duty had been discharged. All laws are carried into execution by means of officers appointed for that purpose; some with more, others with less, but all must be clothed with power sufficient for the effectual execution of the law to be enforced. Legislative grants of power to the officers of the law to make rules and regulations which are to have the force and effect of laws are by no means uncommon in the history of our legislation." Georgia R. Co. v. Smith, 70 Ga. 694 (affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States, 128 U.S. 174, 9 Sup.Ct. 47, 32 L.Ed. 377).

Our own court is in accord with the holding that the Legislature performs its function in creating the laws and can delegate the execution of same to officials legally selected for said purpose, and that the giving of said officials some latitude in the execution of same does not amount to the delegation of the authority to legislate. Whaley v. State, 168 Ala. 152, 52 So. 941, 30 L.R.A. (N.S.) 499; State v. McCarty, 5 Ala.App. 212, 59 So. 543 (which was subsequently approved by this court in the denial of the writ of certiorari to review the holding of the Court of Appeals); Ward v. State, 154 Ala. 227, 45 So. 655; Tallassee Co. v. Coms. Court, 158 Ala. 263, 48 So. 354.

Indeed, the power of the Legislature to create a railroad or corporation commission, and through them to exercise its power of regulation over railroads, has been repeatedly sustained, subject to the limitations that they cannot be invested with strictly legislative or judicial powers, and that their power and proceedings must be within constitutional restrictions relating to due process of law, and equal protection of the laws, and that a state cannot authorize a railroad commission to regulate interstate commerce.

So a railroad commission legally constituted is an administrative body, and not legislative, or a court, although they do in some cases exercise some functions of a judicial character nor are their decisions judgment in the ordinary sense of the term. 33 Cyc. 45, and cases cited in note. "In some cases the statutes give a right of appeal from the orders of railroad commissioners, or authorize the railroad company to bring an action against the commissioners to have the regulations, orders, or finding vacated, with a right of appeal from the judgment there rendered to the supreme appellate court, and the orders of railroad commissioners may also be reviewed on certiorari, but on appeal the court will not revise an order of the commissioners unless clearly erroneous. So also in an action or proceeding to enforce an order of the railroad commissioners the court may inquire into whether the commissioners have exceeded their jurisdiction, or whether the order of the commissioners is under the circumstances unreasonable or unjust, and upon an affirmative finding in either case refuse to enforce the order. Courts of equity also have jurisdiction to prevent illegal or improper acts on the part of the railroad commissioners, and so a court of equity may enjoin proceedings or the enforcement of orders of railroad...

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