Southern Pac Co v. State of Arizona Sullivan

Citation325 U.S. 761,65 S.Ct. 1515,89 L.Ed. 1915
Decision Date18 June 1945
Docket NumberNo. 56,56
PartiesSOUTHERN PAC. CO. v. STATE OF ARIZONA ex rel. SULLIVAN, Attorney General of Arizona
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Appeal from the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona.

Messrs. Burton Mason, of San Francisco, Cal., and J. Carter Fort, of Washington, D.C., for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from page 762 intentionally omitted] Mr. Robert L. Stern, of Washington, D.C., for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court.

Messrs. Harold N. McLaughlin and Harold C. Heiss, both of Cleveland, Ohio, for appellee.

Mr. Chief Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Arizona Train Limit Law of May 16, 1912, Arizona Code Ann., 1939, § 69-119, makes it unlawful for any person or corporation to operate within the state a reilroad train of more than fourteen passenger or seventy freight cars, and authorizes the state to recover a money penalty for each violation of the Act. The questions for decision are whether Congress has, by legislative enactment, restricted the power of the states to regulate the length of interstate trains as a safety measure and, if not, whether the statute contravenes the commerce clause of the federal Constitution.

In 1940 the State of Arizona brought suit in the Arizona Superior Court against appellant, the Southern Pacific Company, to recover the statutory penalties for operating within the state two interstate trains, one a passenger train of more than fourteen cars, and one a freight train of more than seventy cars. Appellant answered, admitting the train operations, but defended on the ground that the statute offends against the commerce clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and conflicts with federal legislation. After an extended trial without a jury, the court made detailed findings of fact on the basis of which it gave judgment for the railroad company. The Supreme Court of Arizona reversed and directed judgment for the state. Ariz., 145 P.2d 530. The case comes here on appeal under § 237(a) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C.A. § 344(a), appellant raising by its assignments of error the questions presented here for decision.

The Supreme Court left undisturbed the findings of the trial court and made no new findings. It held that the power of the state to regulate the length of interstate trains had not been restricted by Congressional action. It sustained the Act as a safety measure to reduce the number of accidents attributed to the operation of trains of more than the statutory maximum length, enacted by the state legislature in the exercise of its 'police power'. This power the court held extended to the regulation of the operations of interstate commerce in the interests of local health, safety and well-being. It thought that a state statute, enacted in the exercise of the police power, and bearing some reasonable relation to the health, safety and well-being of the people of the state, of which the state legislature is the judge, was not to be judicially overturned, notwithstanding its admittedly adverse effect on the operation of interstate trains.

Purporting to act under § 1, paragraphs 10-17 of the Interstate Commerce Act, 24 Stat. 379 as amended, 49 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., 49 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq., the Interstate Commerce Commission, as of September 15, 1942, promulgated as an emergency measure Service Order No. 85, 7 Fed.Reg. 7258, suspending the operation of state train limit laws for the duration of the war, and denied an application to set aside the order. In re Matter of Service Order No. 85, 256 I.C.C. 523. Paragraph 15 of § 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act empowers the Commission, when it is 'of opinion that shortage of equipment, congestion of traffic, or other emergency requiring immediate action exists in any section of the country,' to make or suspend rules and practices 'with respect to car service,' which includes by paragraph 10 of § 1 'the use, control, supply, movement, distribution, exchange, interchange, and return' of locomotives and cars, and the 'supply of trains.' Paragraph 16 of § 1 provides that when a carrier is unable properly to transport the traffic offered, the Commission may make rea onable directions 'with respect to the handling, routing, and movement of the traffic of such carrier and its distribution over other lines of roads.' The authority of the Commission to make Order No. 85 is currently under attack in Johnston v. United States, Civil Action No. 1408, pending in the Western District of Oklahoma.

The Commission's order was not in effect in 1940 when the present suit was brought for violations of the state law in that year, and the Commission's order is inapplicable to the train operations here charged as violations. Hence the question here is not of the effect of the Commission's order, which was assume for purposes of decision to be valid, but whether the grant of power to the Commission operated to supersede the state act before the Commission's order. We are of opinion that, in the absence of administrative implementation by the Commission, § 1 does not of itself curtail state power to regulate train lengths. The provisions under which the Commission purported to act, phrased in broad and general language, do not in terms deal with that subject. We do not gain either from their words or from the legislative history any hint that Congress in enacting them intended, apart from Commission action, to supersede state laws regulating train lengths. We can hardly suppose that Congress, merely by conferring authority on the Commission to regulate car service in an 'emergency,' intended to restrict the exercise, otherwise lawful, of state power to regulate train lengths before the Commission finds on 'emergency' to exist.

Congress, in enacting legislation within its constitutional authority over interstate commerce, will not be deemed to have intended to strike down a state statute designed to protect the health and safety of the public unless its purpose to do so is clearly manifested, Reid v. State of Colorado, 187 U.S. 137, 148, 23 S.Ct. 92, 96, 47 L.Ed. 108; Missouri Pac. Ry. v. Larabee Flour Mills Co., 211 U.S. 612, 621, 29 S.Ct. 214, 217, 53 L.Ed. 352, et seq.; Missouri, K. & T. Ry. Co. of Texas v. Harris, 234 U.S. 412, 418, 419, 34 S.Ct. 790, 792, 793, 58 L.Ed. 1377, L.R.A.1915E, 942; H. P. Welch Co. v. State of New Hampshire, 306 U.S. 79, 85, 59 S.Ct. 438, 441, 83 L.Ed. 500; Allen-Bradley Local No. 1111, United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, 315 U.S. 740, 749, 62 S.Ct. 820, 825, 86 L.Ed. 1154, or unless the state law, in terms or in its practical administration, conflicts with the Act of Congress, or plainly and palpably infringes its policy. Sinnot v. Davenport, 22 How. 227, 243, 16 L.Ed. 243; Missouri, K. & T.R. Co. v. Haber, 169 U.S. 613, 623, 18 S.Ct. 488, 492, 42 L.Ed. 878; Savage v. Jones, 225 U.S. 501, 533, 32 S.Ct. 715, 725, 56 L.Ed. 1182; Carey v. State of South Dakota, 250 U.S. 118, 122, 39 S.Ct. 403, 404, 63 L.Ed. 886; Atchison T. & S.F.R. Co. v. Railroad Commission of State of California, 283 U.S. 380, 391, 51 S.Ct. 553, 555, 75 L.Ed. 1128; Townsend v. Yeomans, 301 U.S. 441, 454, 57 S.Ct. 842, 848, 81 L.Ed. 1210.

The contention, faintly urged, that the provisions of the Safety Appliance Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 9, 45 U.S.C.A. §§ 1, 9, providing for brakes on trains, and of § 25 of Part I of the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 26(b), 49 U.S.C.A. § 26(b), permitting the Commission to order the installation of train stop and control devices, operate of their own force to exclude state regulation of train lengths, has even less support. Congress, although asked to do so,1 has declined to pass legislation specifically limiting trains to seventy cars. We are therefore brought to appellant's principal contention, that the state statute contravenes the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution.

Although the commerce clause conferred on the national government powe to regulate commerce, its possession of the power does not exclude all state power of regulation. Ever since Willson v. Black-Bird Creek Marsh Co., 2 Pet. 245, 7 L.Ed. 412, and Cooley v. Board of Wardens, 12 How. 299, 13 L.Ed. 996, it has been recognized that, in the absence of conflicting legislation by Congress, there is a residuum of power in the state to make laws governing matters of local concern which nevertheless in some measure affect interstate commerce or even, to some extent, regulate it. Minnesota Rate Cases (Simpson v. Shepard), 230 U.S. 352, 399, 400, 33 S.Ct. 729, 739, 57 L.Ed. 1511, 48 L.R.A.,N.S., 1151, Ann.Cas.1915A, 18; South Carolina State Highway Department v. Barnwell Bros., 303 U.S. 177, 187, 625, 58 S.Ct. 510, 514, 82 L.Ed. 734, et seq.; People of State of California v. Thompson, 313 U.S. 109, 113, 114, 61 S.Ct. 930, 932, 85 L.Ed. 1219, and cases cited; Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, 359, 360, 63 S.Ct. 307, 317, 318, 87 L.Ed. 315. Thus the states may regulate matters which, because of their number and diversity, may never be adequately dealt with by Congress. Cooley v. Board of Wardens, supra, 12 How. 319, 13 L.Ed. 996; South Carolina State Highway Department v. Barnwell Bros., supra, 303 U.S. 185, 58 S.Ct. 513, 82 L.Ed. 734; California v. Thompson, supra, 313 U.S. 113, 61 S.Ct. 932, 85 L.Ed. 1219; Duckworth v. State of Arkansas, 314 U.S. 390, 394, 62 S.Ct. 311, 313, 86 L.Ed. 294, 138 A.L.R. 1144; Parker v. Brown, supra, 317 U.S. 362, 363, 63 S.Ct. 319, 87 L.Ed. 315. When the regulation of matters of local concern is local in character and effect, and its impact on the national commerce does not seriously interfere with its operation, and the consequent incentive to deal with them nationally is slight, such regulation has been generally held to be within state authority. South Carolina Highway Dept. v. Barnwell Bros., supra, 303 U.S. 188, 58 S.Ct. 515, 82...

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