American Farm Lines v. Black Ball Freight Service

PETITIONER: American Farm Lines
RESPONDENT: Black Ball Freight Service
LOCATION: 17th Judicial Circuit Green County Alabama Jury Commission

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 397 US 532 (1970)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 1970
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for American Farm Lines v. Black Ball Freight Service

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 1970 in American Farm Lines v. Black Ball Freight Service

Warren E. Burger:

Number 369, American Farm Lines against Black Ball Freight Service, Interstate Commerce Commission against Black Ball.

Mr. Califano for American Farm Lines, --

Joseph A. Califano, Jr.:

Yes, Mr. Chief Justice.

Warren E. Burger:

-- you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr.:

Thank you, sir.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

These consolidated appeals are taken from a decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

That decision nullified a grant of temporary motor carrier authority to my client, American Farm Lines.

The appeals present two questions concerning Interstate Commerce Commission's award of temporary motor carrier authority.

One relates to the adequacy of the evidence to support the grant under the Interstate Commerce Act and ICC rules.

The other relates to the jurisdiction of the ICC to reopen a proceeding handing before it at a time when some of the parties had obtained preliminary judicial relief against the Commission and others have asked the Commission to reconsider its opinion.

Appellants have divided the allotted time for argument.

I will state the facts and deal with the first issue.

Mr. Cerra on behalf of the United States Government will discuss the second issue.

We would like to reserve a few minutes for rebuttal.

The conflict before this Court arises because of the determination of the Defense Department to reduce the time during which defense material is in transit and does achieve substantial savings, increased deficiency and with respect to explosives and other dangerous cargo, increase safety.

Until 1966, virtually all defense motor carrier shipments were on a joint line basis by regulated carriers with routing specified in detail and their certificates of operating authority.

The routings were generally circuitous.

They required several carriers to transport the same load of defense material.

In 1966, the Department began to use exempt farm cooperatives including American Farm Lines to provide a fast, direct, point-to-point service.

The Department use farm cooperatives because a legislative exemption freed them from the certificate restrictions of regulated carriers and thus enable them to provide the direct single-line service.

Under this exemption, American Farm Lines has hold substantial amounts of defense material.

Its operations promptly demonstrated three advantages to the Department of direct service.

The direct savings from lower direct transportation costs, the indirect savings from lower inventories enhanced fewer pipe line costs, and increase safety in the movement of explosives and dangerous materials because of a shorter period, a population exposure.

In 1968 after two years, roughly two years of operation by American Farm Lines, two actions sharply restricted its ability to provide this service.

The first was an injunction obtained by the Munitions Carriers Conference, and the second was a change in the legislative exemption for farm cooperatives.

As a result of the eminent curtailment of American Farm Line service, American Farm Lines supported by the Defense Department applied to the ICC for temporary authority to continue its direct single-line service as a regulated carrier.

Protests were filed by 125 proposing carriers.

The application of American Farm Lines was made under Section 210a of the Interstate Commerce Act.

That Section authorizes the Commission in its discretion and without hearings or other proceedings to grant such authority and I quote, “to enable a provision of service for which there is an immediate and urgent need to a point who appoints within a territory having no service capable of needing that need.”