Tamiami Trail Tours v. Carter

Decision Date26 October 1954
PartiesTAMIAMI TRAIL TOURS, Inc., Central Truck Lines, Inc., Great Southern Trucking Company, and Overseas Transportation Company, Petitioners, v. Jerry W. CARTER, Richard A. Mack, and Wilbur C. King, as and constituting the Florida Railroad and Public Utilities Commission, Respondents.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

A. Pickens Coles, Tampa, for petitioners.

Lewis W. Petteway and Guyte P. McCord, Tallahassee, for Florida Railroad and Public Utilities Commission.

Robert L. Floyd and Yonge, Whiteside & Prunty, Miami, for applicants, respondents.

DREW, Justice.

Martin and Evelyn Rokaw, doing business as Beverage Transport Company, filed their application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity on November 6, 1952. The certificate sought from the respondent Commission would authorize them to transport over the public highways of the affected area alcoholic liquors and wine from wholesale outlets in the City of Miami, Florida, to retail outlets in twelve counties lying northerly therefrom.

Without objection from any interested party, the application was referred to an examiner, Alfred E. Sapp, of Miami, for the purpose of conducting hearings thereon and recommending to the Commission the proper disposition thereof. Hearings were conducted by the examiner, at none of which was there any objection to his authority to conduct such hearings and at which appeared the petitioners here, Tamiami Trail Tours, Inc., Central Truck Lines, Inc., Great Southern Trucking Company and Overseas Transportation Company, who had theretofore appeared in the proceedings as protestants. Each of the petitioners held certificates as general commodity common carriers operating over regular routes and on regular schedules in the area sought to be served by the applicants Martin and Evelyn Rokaw to the limited extent set forth in their application.

About three and a half months after the application was filed, the examiner filed his report and recommended an order that the application be denied. On application, the Commission reopened the cause and ordered further hearings which were conducted by the examiner, again without objection from any interested party. Some months later the second report of the examiner was filed and he again recommended that the application be denied. To these recommendations the applicants excepted, the matter was duly considered by the Full Commission and, upon consideration thereof, it overruled the recommendations of the examiner, made its own findings of fact, and granted the application. Rehearing was applied for, further arguments were held and the petition for rehearing was overruled. The protesting carriers, petitioners here, in due course filed their petition to this Court for certiorari.

The principal question presented for our consideration is whether the Commission departed from the essential requirements of law in granting the application.

The Legislature has provided for the regulation of common and private contract carriers on the highways of this State by the Florida Railroad and Public Utilities Commission. Section 350.12(2)(m), Florida Statutes, 1953, F.S.A., provides:

'Every * * * order * * * made by the commissioners shall be deemed and held to be * * * reasonable and just and such as ought to have been made in the premises * * * unless the contrary plainly appears on the face thereof or be made to appear by clear and satisfactory evidence, and shall not be set aside or held invalid unless the contrary so appears. All presumptions shall be in favor of every action of the commissioners and all doubts as to their jurisdiction and powers shall be resolved in their favor, it being intended that the laws relative to the railroad commissioners shall be deemed remedial laws to be construed liberally to further the legislative intent to regulate and control public carriers in the public interest. * * *'

We have long since held that the above-quoted section of the Statute applies to orders of the Commission regulating automobile transportation under Chapter 323, Florida Statutes, 1953, F.S.A., as well as other orders of the Commission. See Central Truck Lines v. Railroad Commission, 118 Fla. 526, 160 So. 22; In re Edwards, 100 Fla. 989, 130 So. 615; Florida Motor Lines v. Railroad Commission, 101 Fla. 1018, 132 So. 851; and Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Railroad Commission, 149 Fla. 245, 5 So.2d 708.

Not only do orders of the Commission entered by it pursuant to and within the powers given it under the laws of this State have the presumption of validity mentioned in the foregoing Statute, but the rule is elementary that in certiorari proceedings to review orders of that Commission, the burden is upon the petitioner to show that the order complained of was illegal or unauthorized or, in the entry thereof, the Commission departed from the essential requirements of the law or that it exceeded its jurisdiction.

Under the authority of Section 35 of Article 5 of the Florida Constitution, F.S.A., the Legislature has clothed the Railroad Commission with judicial powers in matters which are connected with the function of its office. It is only in those instances, as we have said on many previous occasions, where it is made clearly to appear to us that the Commission has done an illegal or unauthorized act, has exceeded its jurisdiction or failed to accord with the essential requirements of the law, that we are authorized to interfere with its actions. It is indeed a narrow corridor through which the petitioner must pass and we should be most circumspect not to transgress its limitations. Proper restraint in this connection on the part of this Court clearly preserves the true historical purpose of the Courts and leaves the Commission the power effectively to function within its limited field of operation under the Constitution and Statutes.

We have assiduously searched the record here and have failed to find that in this case the Railroad Commission either exceeded its jurisdiction or failed to observe the essential requirements of the law in the issuance of the challenged order or that such order is in any respect illegal or unauthorized. It is not our function to examine and weigh the evidence in detail. In Nelson v. State ex rel. Quigg, 156 Fla. 189, 23 So.2d 136, we said, and now repeat:

'We have held, and it seems to be an almost universal rule, that the findings of fact made by an administrative board, bureau, or commission, in compliance with law, will not be disturbed on appeal if such findings are sustained by substantial evidence. Hammond v. Curry, 153 Fla. 245, 14 So.2d 390; Jenkins v. Curry, (154 Fla. 617) 18 So.2d 521; Callahan v. Curry, 153 Fla. 744, 15 So.2d 668; Marshall v. Pletz, 317 U.S. 383, 63 S.Ct. 284, 87 L.Ed. 348; Virginia Electric & Power Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 319 U.S. 533, 63 S.Ct. 1214, 87 L.Ed. 1568. The underlying and salient reasons for this safe and sane rule need not be repeated here. The fact that it is not the province of an appellate court to try cases de novo on a cold typed transcript is too elementary to require emphasis. This rule finds its counterpart in, if indeed it is not the twin brother of, the rule which requires an appellate court to give great weight to the findings of fact made by a jury or a chancellor and to sustain such findings unless there is no substantial evidence to support them. See Broxson v. State, 99 Fla. 1187, 128 So. 628; Smith v Midcoast Inv. Co., 127 Fla. 455, 173 So. 348; Marcus v. Hull, 142 Fla. 306, 195 So. 170.

'The rule invoked herein is salutary and founded in good common sense and irrefutable logic. It should be adhered to religiously. The advent of the talking moving picture probably has given us a preview of a sound reason for its ultimate abolition. However, until this possible avenue of escape has been made adaptable to, and a requirement in, judicial proceedings, the rule should remain inviolate.'

The responsibility is upon the petitioners here to make it clearly appear to us that the challenged order is so defective in one of the aspects hereinbefore named as to bring into operation the powers of this Court to vacate it. No such showing has been made. Moreover, there can be no question but that whatever harm may be suffered by protestants in granting the permit is so inconsequential when arrayed alongside the obvious benefits which will be received by the various public interests affected, as to support clearly the conclusions reached by the Commission in the exercise of the discretion vested in it under the law.

The petitioners' contention that subsection (3), of Section 323.03, Florida Statutes, 1951, F.S.A., precludes the issuance of the challenged certificate as a matter of law, has been answered contrary to their contention in the case of Jack's Cookie Co. v. Florida Railroad & Public Utilities Commission, Fla.1951, 54 So.2d 695, 698. That case presented a proposition almost identical to the one we are concerned with here, and there, in reference to section 323.04(3), F.S.1951, F.S.A., which is identical in substance to section 323.03(3), supra, we held the Statute: 'clearly implies that there may be circumstances where a particular service is not afforded by established carriers and where to meet the need the commission can authorize the transportation offered by another.'

Following that line of reasoning, the record here shows, and it is not questioned by petitioners, that the carriers who handled the bulk of the subject business during the period of the late war were now and for a long time had been handling only about one per cent thereof. The fact that the common carriers, the protestants here, are handling only this minute percentage of this potential business is the most forceful argument that it had not furnished the service and facilities reasonably required as contemplated...

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    ...Co. v. Railroad Commission, 149 Fla. 245, 5 So.2d 708; Florida Motor Lines Corp. v. Douglass, 150 Fla. 1, 7 So.2d 843; Tamiami Trail Tours v. Carter, Fla., 80 So.2d 322). In the last cited case in the original opinion which we readopted and adhered to in the rehearing of Alterman Transport ......
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    ...or only insubstantial evidence, to support the findings. DeGroot v. Sheffield, 95 So.2d 912, 916 (Fla.1957); Tamiami Trail Tours, Inc. v. Carter, 80 So.2d 322, 324 (Fla.1955). Cf. Federal Power Comm'n v. Florida Power & Light Co., 404 U.S. 453, 92 S.Ct. 637, 30 L.Ed.2d 600 (1972); NLRB v. W......
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