Reagan v. Farmers Loan Trust Co

Decision Date26 May 1894
Docket NumberNo. 928,928
Citation38 L.Ed. 1014,14 S.Ct. 1047,154 U.S. 362
PartiesREAGAN et al. v. FARMERS' LOAN & TRUST CO. et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

This was a suit by the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company against John H. Reagan, W. P. McLean, L. L. Foster (railroad commissioners of the state of Texas), C. A. Culberson (attorney general of the state), the International & Great Northern Railroad Company, and Thomas N. Campbell (receiver of that company), brought to restrain said railroad commissioners from enforcing certain rates and regulations prescribed by them for said company, and to restrain the attorney general from suing for penalties for failure to conform to such rates and obey such regulations. The railroad company filed an answer and a cross bill similar to complainant's bill, and praying substantially the same relief. The railroad commissioners and the attorney general filed answers, but afterwards withdrew their answers, and filed demurrers. Their demurrers were overruled, and a decree for defendants was rendered, making a temporary injunction previously granted (51 Fed. 529) perpetual. The railroad commissioners and the attorney general appealed.

On April 3, 1891, the legislature of the state of Texas passed an act to establish a railroad commission. The first section provides for the appointment and qualification of three persons to constitute the commission; the second, for the organization of the commission; while the third defines the powers and duties of the commission, and is as follows:

'Sec. 3. The power and authority is hereby vested in the railroad commission of Texas and it is hereby made its duty, to adopt all necessary rates, charges, and regulations to govern and regulate railroad freight and passenger tariffs, the power to correct abuses and prevent unjust discrimination and extortion in the rates of freight and passenger tariffs on the different railroads in this state, and to enforce the same by having the penalties inflicted as by this act prescribed through proper courts having jurisdiction.

'(a) The said commission shall have power, and it shall be its duty, to fairly and justly classify and subdivide all freight and property of whatsoever character that may be transported over the railroads of this state into such general and special classes or subdivisions as may be found necessary and expedient.

'(b) The commission shall have power, and it shall be its duty, to fix to each class or subdivision of freight a reasonable rate for each railroad subject to this act for the transportation of each of said classes and subdivisions.

'(c) The classifications herein provided for shall apply to and be the same for all railroads subject to the provisions of this act.

'(d) The said commission may fix different rates for different railroads and for different lines under the same management, or for different parts of the same lines if found necessary to do justice, and may make rates for express companies different from the rates fixed for railroads.

'(e) The said commission shall have power, and it shall be its duty, to fix and establish for all or any connecting lines of railroad in this state reasonable joint rates of freight charges for the various classes of freight and cars that may pass over two or more lines of such railroads.

'(f) If any two or more connecting railroads shall fail to agree upon a fair and just division of the charges arising from the transportation of freights, passengers or cars over their lines, the commission shall fix the pro rata part of such charges to be received by each of said connecting lines.

'(g) Until the commission shall make the classifications and schedules of rates as herein provided for, and afterwards if they deem it advisable, they may make partial or special classifications for all or any of the railroads subject hereto, and fix the rates to be charged by such roads therefor; and such classifications and rates shall be put into effect in the manner provided for general classifications and schedules of rates.

'(h) The commission shall have power, and it shall be its duty from time to time, to alter, change, amend, or abolish any classification or rate established by it when deemed necessary; and such amended, altered, or new classifications or rates shall be put into effect in the same manner as the originals.

'(i) The commission may adopt and enforce such rules, regulations, and modes of procedure as it may deem proper to hear and determine complaints that may be made against the classifications or the rates, the rules, regulations, and determinations of the commission.

'(j) The commission shall make reasonable and just rates of charges for each railroad subject hereto for the use or transportation of loaded or empty cars on its road; and may establish for each railroad or for all railroads alike reasonable rates for the storing and handling of freight and for the use of cars not unloaded after forty-eight hours' notice to the consignee, not to include Sundays.

'(k) The commission shall make and establish reasonable rates for the transportation of passengers over each or all of the railroads subject hereto, which rates shall not exceed the rates fixed by law. The commission shall have power to prescribe reasonable rates, tolls, or charges for all other services performed by any railroad subject hereto.'

The first paragraph of the fourth section is in these words:

'Sec. 4. Before any rates shall be established under this act, the commission shall give the railroad company to be affected thereby ten days' notice of the time and place when and where the rates shall be fixed; and said railroad company shall be entitled to be heard at such time and place, to the end that justice may be done; and it shall have process to enforce the attendance of its witnesses. All process herein provided for shall be served as in civil cases.'

The remaining paragraphs give power to adopt rules of procedure. The fifth, sixth, and seventh sections are as follows:

'Sec. 5. In all actions between private parties and railway companies brought under this law, the rates, charges, orders, rules, regulations, and classifications prescribed by said commission before the institution of such action shall be held conclusive, and deemed and accepted to be reasonable, fair and just, and in such respects shall not be controverted therein until finally found otherwise in a direct action brought for that purpose in the manner prescribed by sections 6 and 7 hereof.

'Sec. 6. If any railroad company or other party at interest be dissatisfied with the decision of any rate, classification, rule, charge, order, act, or regulation adopted by the commission, such dissatisfied company or party may file a petition setting forth the particular cause or causes of objection to such decision, act, rate, rule, charge, classification, or order, or to either or all of them, in a court of competent jurisdiction in Travis county, Texas, against said commission as defendant. Said action shall have precedence over all other causes on the docket of a different nature, and shall be tried and determined as other civil causes in said court. Either party to said action may appeal to the appellate court having jurisdiction of said cause, and said appeal shall be at once returnable to said appellate court, at either of its terms, and said action so appealed shall have precedence in said appellate court of all causes of a different character therein pending: provided, that if the court be in session at the time such right of action accrues, the suit may be filed during such term and stand ready for trial after ten days' notice.

'Sec. 7. In all trials under the foregoing section the burden of proof shall rest upon the plaintiff, who must show by clear and satisfactory evidence that the rates, regulations, orders, classifications, acts, or charges complained of are unreasonable and unjust to it or them.'

Sections 8-13 contain special provisions which are not material to the consideration of any question presented in this case.

Section 14 reads:

'Sec. 14. If any railroad company subject to this act, or its agent or officer, shall hereafter charge, collect, demand or receive from any person, company, firm or corporation a greater rate, charge, or compensation than that fixed and established by the railroad commission for the transportation of freight, passengers, or cars, or for the use of any car on the line of its railroad, or any line operated by it, or for receiving, forwarding, handling, or storing any such freight or cars, or for any other service performed or to be performed by it, such railroad company and its said agent and officer shall be deemed guilty of extortion, and shall forfeit and pay to the state of Texas a sum not less than $100 nor more than $5,000.'

Section 15 defines 'unjust discrimination,' and imposes a penalty of not less than $500, nor more than $5,000, upon any railroad company violating any provision of the section.

Section 16 is leveled against officers and agents of railroads, and imposes a penalty of not less than $100, nor more than $1,000, for certain offenses denounced therein.

Section 17 declares that any railroad company violating the provisions of the act shall be liable to the persons injured thereby for the damages sustained in consequence of such violation, and in case it is guilty of extortion or discrimination, as defined in the act, shall pay, in addition to such damages, to the person injured, a penalty of not less than $125, nor more than $500.

In sections 18 and 19 are further provisions as to penalties. The remaining sections—20 to 24, inclusive—contain matter of detail, which is unimportant in this case.

Three of the plaintiffs in error, Reagan, McLean, and Foster, were duly appointed and qualified as members of said railroad commission, and organized it on the 10th day of June, 1891. The other plaintiff in error, Culberson, is the attorney general of the state, who, by ...

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