United States v. Colorado & N.W.R. Co.

Decision Date25 November 1907
Docket Number2,568.
Citation157 F. 321
PartiesUNITED STATES v. COLORADO & N.W.R. CO.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Syllabus by the Court

The safety appliance acts (Acts March 2, 1893, c. 196, 27 Stat 531, amended by Act April 1, 1896, c. 87, 29 Stat. 85 (U.S Comp. St. 1901, p. 3174), and Act March 2, 1903, c. 976, 32 Stat. 943 (U.S. Comp. St. Supp. 1907, p. 885)), apply to and govern a railroad company engaged in interstate commerce which operates entirely within a single state, independently of all other carriers.

The transportation of articles of interstate commerce is the test of the application of these acts.

The importation into one state from another is the test of interstate commerce.

Every part of every transportation of articles of commerce in a continuous passage from a commencement in one state to a prescribed destination in another is a transaction of interstate commerce.

Every carrier who transports such goods through any part of such continuous passage is engaged in interstate commerce, whether the goods are carried upon through bills of lading or are rebilled by the several carriers.

Congress may lawfully affect intrastate commerce so far as necessary to regulate effectually and completely interstate commerce because the Constitution reserved to Congress plenary power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, and the Constitution and the acts of Congress in pursuance thereof are the supreme law of the land.

The construction of the language of the safety appliance acts (Act March 2, 1893, c. 196, Sec. 1, 27 Stat. 531, amended by Act April 1, 1896, c. 87, 29 Stat. 85 (U.S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3174), and Act March 2, 1903, c. 976, 32 Stat. 103 (U.S. Comp. St. Supp. 1907, p. 885)) is not controlled by the language or by the interpretation of the terms of the interstate commerce act (Act Feb. 4, 1887, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379 (U.S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3154)).

Construction and interpretation have no function where the terms of the statute are plain and certain and its meaning is clear. In such a case Congress must be presumed to mean what it has plainly expressed.

The natural, common, or obvious meaning of the language of a law must be preferred, save in rare and exceptional cases, to a recondite signification evolved only by patient study and diligent search for it.

The rule in pari materia, the rule that the language of statutes upon the same or similar subjects should have like interpretation, is inapplicable where the provisions of the later statute are positive and explicit, and also where the subjects of the statutes, the mischiefs at which they are leveled, and the remedies so provided are radically different.

It does not subject the construction of the safety appliance acts (Acts March 2, 1893, c. 196, 27 Stat. 531, amended by Act April 1, 1896, c. 87, 29 Stat. 85 (U.S. comp. St. 1901, p. 3174), and Act March 2, 1903, c. 976, 32 Stat. 103 (U.S. Comp. St. Supp. 1907, p. 885)), to the language or the interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Act Feb. 4, 1887, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379 (U.S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3154).

Where Congress makes no exception from a plain and certain declaration in an act, there is ordinarily a presumption that it intended to make none.

A secret intention of the lawmaking body may not be lawfully assumed by the courts and interpreted into a statute whose language is plain and unambiguous, and does not express or necessarily imply it.

Courts can give effect legally to the intentions of the lawmaking body expressed in a statute, or necessarily implied, and to those only.

The Colorado & Northwestern Railroad Company, a corporation of Colorado, owned and operated a narrow gauge railroad, which consisted of a main line about 10 miles long from Boulder to Sunset, and two branches, each about 18 miles in length to Eldora and Ward, respectively. This entire railroad was within the state of Colorado. The Northwestern Company was a common carrier, and in February, 1906, it transported in one of its freight cars from Boulder, where it had received it from the Union Pacific Railroad Company, to Sugar Loaf, a station upon its line, a shipment of hardware which had been sent to Omaha, Neb., consigned to O. P. Miller Company at Sugar Loaf, and, in another of its cars, it transported from Boulder, where it had received it from the Colorado & Southern Railroad Company, to Ward, a station on its railroad, a shipment of tablets which had been sent from Kansas City, Mo., consigned to Rundell & Miker at Ward. In the same cars it carried three other shipments of goods from points without the state to destinations on its line. These shipments were not carried upon through bills of lading, but they were consigned and carried upon continuous passages from their points of origin in eastern states to their destinations at the stations of the Northwestern Company in Colorado. The shipment to Sugar Loaf was rebilled from Boulder to that place by the Northwestern Company, and the shipment to Ward was rebilled by the Colorado & Southern Railroad Company at Denver, from that place to Ward, and at Boulder the Northwestern Company advanced the freight charges for the previous transportation upon both shipments, and it collected the entire freight charges from Kansas City and Omaha to the destinations of the goods of the consignees of the respective shipments. The railroad of the Colorado & Southern Company had a narrow gauge, and its tracks connected with those of the Northwestern Company at Boulder. The railroad of the Union Pacific Company had a standard gauge, and its track at Boulder ran along one side and the track of the Northwestern Company along the other side of a platform across which freight was transferred from the cars of each to those of the other. There was no evidence of any common control, arrangement, or management of the Northwestern Company and any other carrier for a continuous passage or shipment of these or other articles of interstate commerce. The engines and cars of the Northwestern Company were not equipped with automatic couplers. Links and pins were used upon them. There was evidence tending to show that it was the practice of that company to receive and carry to their destinations shipments originating outside of the state like those before specified. The United States brought an action against that company to recover the penalties fixed by the safety appliance acts for carrying the two shipments first described in cars not equipped with automatic couplers, and upon the foregoing facts the court below instructed the jury to return a verdict for the defendant. This ruling is challenged by the writ of error.

Luther M. Walter and Ralph Hartzell (Earl M. Cranston, on the brief), for plaintiff in error.

P. H. Holme (Dines, Whitted & Dines, on the brief), for defendant in error.

Before SANBORN and VAN DEVANTER, Circuit Judges, and PHILIPS, District judge.

SANBORN Circuit Judge (after stating the facts as above).

This case presents a single question. Is a common carrier which operates a railroad entirely within a single state, and transports thereon articles of commerce shipped in continuous passages from places without the state to stations on its road, or from stations on its road to points without the state, free from any common control, management, or arrangement with another carrier for a continuous carriage or shipment thereof, subject to the provisions of the safety appliance acts?

These acts declare that: 'It shall be unlawful for any common carrier engaged in interstate commerce by railroad' (section 1) 'to haul, or permit to be hauled or used on its line any car (except four-wheeled cars and certain logging cars, section 6) used in moving interstate traffic not equipped with couplers coupling automatically by impact' (section 2), and that any such common carrier hauling, or permitting to be hauled or used on its line, any such unequipped car shall be liable to a penalty of $100 for each violation of the act. Act March 2, 1893, c. 196, 27 Stat. 531, as amended by Act April 1, 1896, c. 87, 29 Stat. 85 (U.S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3174); Act March 2, 1903, c. 976, 32 Stat. 943 (U.S. Comp. St. Supp. 1907, p. 885).

Importation into one state from another is the indispensable element, the test, of interstate commerce. Every part of every transportation of articles of commerce in a continuous passage from an inception in one state to a prescribed destination in another is a transaction of interstate commerce. Goods so carried never cease to be articles of interstate commerce from the time they are started upon their passage in one state until their delivery at their destination in the other is completed, and they there mingle with and become a part of the great mass of property within the latter state. Their transportation never ceases to be a transaction of interstate commerce from its inception in one state until the delivery of the goods at their prescribed destinations in the other, and every one who participates in it, who carries the goods through any part of their continuous passage, unavoidably engages in interstate commerce. Rhodes v. Iowa, 170 U.S. 412, 418, 419, 426, 18 Sup.Ct. 664, 42 L.Ed. 1088; Kelley v. Rhoads, 188 U.S. 1, 23 Sup.Ct. 259, 47 L.Ed. 359; Houston Direct Nav. Co. v. Ins. Co. of North America, 89 Tex. 1, 32 S.W. 889, 891, 30 L.R.A. 713, 59 Am.St.Rep. 17; Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100, 10 Sup.Ct. 681, 34 L.Ed. 128; Lyng v. Michigan, 135 U.S. 161, 10 Sup.Ct. 725, 34 L.Ed. 150; Caldwell v. North Carolina, 187 U.S. 622, 631, 632, 23 Sup.Ct. 229, 47 L.Ed. 336.

There is nothing in conflict with this proposition in Gulf Colorado & Sante Fe Ry. Co. v. Texas, 204 U.S. 403, 27 Sup.Ct. 360, 51 L.Ed. 540, because in that case the...

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