United States v. Seatrain Lines, No. 61

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation67 S.Ct. 435,91 L.Ed. 396,329 U.S. 424
Decision Date06 January 1947
Docket NumberNo. 61
PartiesUNITED STATES et al. v. SEATRAIN LINES, Inc

329 U.S. 424
67 S.Ct. 435
91 L.Ed. 396
UNITED STATES et al.

v.

SEATRAIN LINES, Inc.

No. 61.
Argued Dec. 9, 1946.
Decided Jan. 6, 1947.

Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of Delaware.

Page 425

Mr.Edward M. Reidy, of Washington, D.C., for appellants.

Mr. Wilbur LaRoe, Jr., of Washington, D.C., for appellee.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Seatrain is and long has been a common carrier of goods by water. Its harbor facilities and vessels have been constructed to enable it to perform a distinctive type of water carriage. Loaded railroad cars can be hoisted and transported in its vessels, thereby eliminating such things as trouble, time and breakage, said to be incident to loading and unloading goods from railroad cars. See United States v. Pennsylvania R.R., 323 U.S. 612, 65 S.Ct. 471, 89 L.Ed. 499. Seatrain

Page 426

vessels also have tank space for carriage of liquid cargoes in bulk.1

Part III of the Interstate Commerce Act, 54 Stat. 929, 49 U.S.C. § 901 et seq., 49 U.S.C.A. § 901 et seq., subjected water carriers to the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Section 309(a) of that Act, 49 U.S.C.A. § 909(a), required them to obtain certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Commission. The same section contains a proviso commonly referred to as the grandfather clause. It provides that any water carrier, with an exception not here material, which was in bona fide operation as a common carrier by water on January 1, 1940, shall be entitled o a certificate to continue operations over the route or routes which it had been serving previous to that date without determination by the Commission of the question of public convenience and necessity.

May 28, 1941, Seatrain filed two applications with the Commission to obtain certificates for two different routes, one of which it had operated since 1932, and another which it had begun to operate in 1940 shortly after passage of the water carrier provisions. Seatrain's application described its operation on each route as that of a 'common carrier by water of commodities generally.' After due notice had been given to all interested parties, Division 4 of the Commission conducted investigations, satisfied itself as to the right of Seatrain to be granted both applications under the provisions of the Act, made appropriate findings, and concluded that Seatrain was entitled to engage in transportation on both the routes as 'a common carrier by water of commodities generally.' A single certificate to carry 'commodities generally between the ports of New York, New Orleans, and Texas City, by way of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of

Page 427

Mexico' was accordingly issued to Seatrain. By its terms it became effective August 10, 1942, subject 'to such terms, conditions, and limitations as are now or may hereafter be, attached to the exercise of such authority by the Commission.'

A year and a half later, January 27, 1944, the Commission, on its own motion, ordered that the proceedings be reopened for the purpose of determining whether the 1942 certificate should not be modified so as to deprive Seatrain of the right to carry commodities generally. Seatrain appeared and moved to vacate and rescind the Commission's order to reopen the proceedings on the ground that the Commission was without statutory authority to make the alteration proposed. Seatrain's motion was rejected. At the subsequent hearing on the proposed modification, Seatrain declined to offer evidence, resting its case entirely on the Commission's lack of authority to reconsider and alter the original certificate. After argument, the Commission entered an order canceling the former certificate and directing that a different one be issued. 260 I.C.C. 430. The proposed new certificate in effect deprived Seatrain of the right to carry goods generally between the ports it served, and limited it to operations only 'as a common carrier by the 'Seatrain' type of vessel, in interstate or foreign commerce, in the transportation of liquid cargoes and bulks; of empty railroad cars; and of property loaded in freight cars received from and delivered to rail carriers and transported without transfer from freight cars between the ports of New York, N.Y., New Orleans, Louisiana, and Texas City, Texas.'

Seatrain then brought this action before a three-judge District Court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 41(28), 47, 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 41(28), 47, to set aside the Commission's order. The District Court set aside the order on the ground that the Commission had exceeded its statutory authority in reopening the pro-

Page 428

ceeding and altering the certificate. The District Court further held that even if the Commission would have had power under different circumstances to alter a certificate, it should not have done so in this case where, as the Court found from evidence before it but which had not been before the Commission, Seatrain had expended large sums of money in reliance upon the complete validity of its certificate. 64 F.Supp. 156. We need not consider the Commission's objection to the District Court's admission of evidence not heard by the Commission since we agree with the District Court that the Commission was without authority to cancel this certificate.

In altering Seatrain's certificate, the Commission held that a certificate authorizing the carriage of 'commodities generally' does not embrace the right to carry loaded or unloaded railroad cars; that consequently the original certificate granted Seatrain actually...

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57 practice notes
  • Friends of the Atglen-Susquenhanna Trial, Inc. v. Surface Transp. Bd., ATGLEN-SUSQUEHANNA
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • May 31, 2001
    ...set forth in the original order -- is reviewable on its merits." BLE, 482 U.S. at 278 (citing United States v. Seatrain Lines, Inc., 329 U.S. 424, 91 L. Ed. 396, 67 S. Ct. 435 (1947)). The STB urged that the reopening must be understood in context, that the proceeding was reopened only for ......
  • Gorbach v. Reno, No. 98-35723.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 4, 1999
    ...a description, because that is all the ICC had undertaken to do. In any event, both American Trucking and United States v. Seatrain Lines, 329 U.S. 424, 67 S.Ct. 435, 91 L.Ed. 396 (1947), were concerned with proceedings that were reopened to execute new agency policy. There is no suggestion......
  • Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, MISSOURI-KANSAS-TEXAS
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 8, 1987
    ...the rights and obligations set forth in the original order—is reviewable on its merits. See, e.g., United States v. Seatrain Lines, Inc., 329 U.S. 424, 67 S.Ct. 435, 91 L.Ed. 396 (1947). Where, however, the Commission refuses to reopen a proceeding, what is reviewable is merely the lawfulne......
  • Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Company v. United States, No. 66 Civ. 2860
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • December 29, 1966
    ...in the light of the policy expressed in the section of the statute dealing with acquisitions. United States v. Seatrain Lines, Inc., 329 U.S. 424, 67 S.Ct. 435, 91 L.Ed. 396 (1946), and CAB v. Delta Airlines, 367 U.S. 316, 81 S.Ct. 1611, 6 L.Ed. 259 F. Supp. 975 2d 869 (1961), dealing with ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
56 cases
  • Friends of the Atglen-Susquenhanna Trial, Inc. v. Surface Transp. Bd., ATGLEN-SUSQUEHANNA
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • May 31, 2001
    ...set forth in the original order -- is reviewable on its merits." BLE, 482 U.S. at 278 (citing United States v. Seatrain Lines, Inc., 329 U.S. 424, 91 L. Ed. 396, 67 S. Ct. 435 (1947)). The STB urged that the reopening must be understood in context, that the proceeding was reopened only for ......
  • Gorbach v. Reno, No. 98-35723.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 4, 1999
    ...a description, because that is all the ICC had undertaken to do. In any event, both American Trucking and United States v. Seatrain Lines, 329 U.S. 424, 67 S.Ct. 435, 91 L.Ed. 396 (1947), were concerned with proceedings that were reopened to execute new agency policy. There is no suggestion......
  • Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, MISSOURI-KANSAS-TEXAS
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 8, 1987
    ...the rights and obligations set forth in the original order—is reviewable on its merits. See, e.g., United States v. Seatrain Lines, Inc., 329 U.S. 424, 67 S.Ct. 435, 91 L.Ed. 396 (1947). Where, however, the Commission refuses to reopen a proceeding, what is reviewable is merely the lawfulne......
  • Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Company v. United States, No. 66 Civ. 2860
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • December 29, 1966
    ...in the light of the policy expressed in the section of the statute dealing with acquisitions. United States v. Seatrain Lines, Inc., 329 U.S. 424, 67 S.Ct. 435, 91 L.Ed. 396 (1946), and CAB v. Delta Airlines, 367 U.S. 316, 81 S.Ct. 1611, 6 L.Ed. 259 F. Supp. 975 2d 869 (1961), dealing with ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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