State v. Martin, 39986

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMORLING, C. J.
Citation230 N.W. 540,210 Iowa 207
PartiesSTATE OF IOWA ex rel. BOARD OF RAILROAD COMMISSIONERS, Appellant, v. J. ALBERT B. MARTIN et al., Appellees
Docket Number39986
Decision Date14 April 1930

230 N.W. 540

210 Iowa 207


J. ALBERT B. MARTIN et al., Appellees

No. 39986

Supreme Court of Iowa, Des Moines

April 14, 1930

[230 N.W. 541]

Appeal from Polk District Court.--F. S. SHANKLAND, Judge.

Suit in equity to enjoin defendant (in his individual and trade names) from operating motor-bus line. Decree for defendant. Plaintiff appeals.


J. H. Henderson, Commerce Counsel of Iowa, and Stephen Robinson, Assistant Commerce Counsel, for appellant.

No appearance for appellee.

OPINION [230 N.W. 542]

[210 Iowa 208] MORLING, C. J.

The suit is on the relation of the board of railroad commissioners, to restrain defendant from operating as a motor carrier without certificate. The petition was filed January 4, 1929, and alleges that defendant, since December 19, 1928, has been operating motor vehicles carrying passengers between fixed termini and over regular routes to and from Omaha, Davenport, and Clinton, for compensation, "without the required certificate;" that the action of defendant is a willful and defiant violation of the laws of the state, particularly Chapters 252-A1 and 252-A2, Code of Iowa, 1927, and in direct contravention of the decisions, rules, and regulations of the board of railroad commissioners, "and results in an unlawful and unauthorized use of the public highways, all to the great and irreparable damage of the state of Iowa and the people thereof in the maintenance and operation of adequate and well regulated systems of transportation." The answer admits that defendant is operating without having procured a certificate of convenience and necessity, but alleges that he is engaged exclusively in interstate commerce, and that the granting of the injunction would be an unlawful interference with interstate commerce; alleges in general terms that Chapters 252-A1 and 252-A2 of the Code are in conflict with the commerce clause and Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, and that Chapter 252-A2 is in conflict with Section 30, Article 3, state Constitution, because it is class legislation; that the "defendant is able, ready, and willing to comply with and conform to any and all applicable regulations imposed by the state of Iowa, or by its board of railroad commissioners, under appropriate legislation relating [210 Iowa 209] to his operation as a motor carrier of passengers engaged exclusively in interstate commerce;" that he has at all times "been able, ready, and willing to pay a reasonable tax or compensation for use of the highways of the state of Iowa, and for the purpose of this suit, he is not now questioning the reasonableness of the tax imposed by Chapter 252-A2 * * * that he is willing to file with the commission liability insurance in a reasonable amount against lawful claims for damages growing out of his operation, suffered within the state of Iowa by persons other than passengers, and also to file with the commission liability insurance covering lawful claims for damages to property suffered within the state of Iowa and growing out of his operation other than the property belonging to his passengers and in his possession;" that he has always observed the law with reference to speed, lighting, safety, sanitation, condition, age and character of drivers, and the law of the road; that the plaintiff has a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy at law, and the granting of the writ would result in irreparable injury to defendant. At the trial, on April 24, 1929, it was admitted that defendant was operating between fixed termini at Omaha and Chicago through Iowa over highways named; that defendant delivered to each passenger a "travelers' insurance policy," with age limits 18 to 70; that defendant had not made application to the board of railroad commissioners for a certificate, nor had he paid the taxes provided for in chapter 252-A2, nor made any report, as required by Chapters 252-A2 and 252-A1, nor filed with the commission any insurance policy.

The trial court held that the legislature was without jurisdiction to require such interstate carriers to carry insurance policies covering damage to the property of interstate passengers or for personal injury to such passengers. He held that the legislature might impose taxes and licenses and provide rules and regulations for the welfare and safety of its citizens, but that they must be reasonable, fair, and just, and not discriminatory or confiscatory. It does not appear that he held any of the rules and regulations to be violative of these essentials.

Defendant makes no argument in this court. There has been filed, however, "brief and argument amicus curiae," assailing the statute because it requires interstate carriers to furnish [210 Iowa 210] liability insurance for the protection of passengers or property carried in interstate commerce, because the state cannot deny interstate carriers the right to operate in interstate commerce over the public highways of the state, and because "Chapter 252-A2 is unconstitutional, on the ground that the penalties imposed by it are so enormous and overwhelming that they constitute a denial to apply to the court for the purpose of testing the validity of the act." This brief seems to be in the interest of "a great many interstate motor carriers operating through the state of Iowa." It is not shown to have been filed in behalf of any party to this action. The decision of the lower court went against the plaintiff, on the ground apparently that it was beyond the power of the legislature to require interstate carriers to furnish liability bond, as prescribed by Section 5105-a26, Code, 1927. It does not appear that the statute [230 N.W. 543] was held invalid on any other ground. The correctness of this decision is the only question before the court. The court will not, at the instance of a stranger to the litigation, search for or pass upon grounds of invalidity of the statute not presented by the parties. New York Life Ins. Co. v. Hardison, 199 Mass. 190 (85 N.E. 410); State ex rel. Great Am. H. Sav. Inst. v. Lee, 288 Mo. 679 (233 S.W. 20).

That defendant is operating in this state as a motor-vehicle carrier, and therein using the public highways of the state for his own private profit, in the operation of his private business, is conceded. He asserts that he is operating only in interstate commerce. This is not denied by plaintiff. Defendant is making use of the highways of the state from one end to the other as a carrier. It would be difficult almost to the point of impossibility for the state to refute defendant's contention that he is not engaging in intrastate carriage. This fact furnishes strong argument for the applicability of the statutory license requirement, in order that proper supervision may be exercised and evasion avoided. See Barrows v. Farnum's Stage Lines, 254 Mass. 240 (150 N.E. 206); Boston & M. Railroad v. Cate, 254 Mass. 248 (150 N.E. 210). In the use of the highways, carriers may properly be subjected to reasonable nondiscriminatory regulations, in the interest of public safety and convenience, and may be required to make reasonable compensation to the [210 Iowa 211] state for the use of...

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