American Trucking Assns. v. Frisco Transportation Company

PETITIONER: American Trucking Assns.
RESPONDENT: Frisco Transportation Company
LOCATION: Union Station

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 358 US 133 (1958)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1958
DECIDED: Dec 15, 1958

Facts of the case


Media for American Trucking Assns. v. Frisco Transportation Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1958 (Part 1) in American Trucking Assns. v. Frisco Transportation Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1958 (Part 2) in American Trucking Assns. v. Frisco Transportation Company

Earl Warren:

Mr. Ginnane you may proceed.

Robert W. Ginnane:

May it please the Court.

In this case the commission authorized to Frisco, a wholly owned subsidiary of a railroad, to acquire the motor carrier operating rights of four existing motor carriers.

Now Section 5(2)(b) of the Interstate Commerce Act provides that such acquisitions by a railroad or its affiliate maybe authorized by the commission if the commission finds that the proposed acquisitions not only are in the public interest but also will enable such railroad carrier to use service by motor vehicle to public advantage in its operations and will not unduly restrain competition.

Now this congressional policy against unlimited motor carrier operations by railroads has been before this Court several times.

Specifically in the first Rock Island Motor Transit case in 340 United States this Court held that to carry out this congressional policy, the commission in authorizing such an acquisition by rail affiliate may insert in the certificate which it issues to the rail affiliate a reservation of power to impose future conditions necessary to ensure that the motor carrier service remains auxiliary and supplemental to the train service of the railroad.

And also just this last term in the American Trucking Association case, this Court held that while the commission may authorize unrestricted motor carrier operations in special circumstances that its action in doing so must be supported by appropriate findings and edits.

That's in the 207?

Robert W. Ginnane:


Do you take a position that the commission cannot (Inaudible)

Robert W. Ginnane:

The commission has taken the position in several cases that it may -- even under 5(2)(b) it may authorize unrestricted operations in special circumstances.

A feature of this case is that it did not purport to do so.

William O. Douglas:

You are going to distinguish the Watson case.

Robert W. Ginnane:

Well briefly we take the distinction there as it is and a major feature in that case which is absent here is that there the commission purported to correct or modify a certificate without opportunity for a hearing to the certificate holder.

Here there has been a hearing, hearings and due process to the extent of some years.

In other words, when the commission acts to authorize a rail affiliate to acquire motor carrier operating rights, act to define the scope of the operations when it permits, its actions must be supported by findings, and the law is clear in the absence of such findings the courts upon challenge will set aside the commission's orders.

At the same time these proceedings are not just a matter between the commission and Frisco.

Competing independent motor carriers have a right to be heard before the commission, they have a right to challenge the commission's orders in the courts and we think they are entitled to assume that the findings and conditions set forth in the commission's reports fairly describe the action which it's about to take.

Now the four certificates involved in this case were issued on the basis of three reports of the commission.

And it's undisputed that in each report the commission, Division 5, made the findings required by Section 5(2)(b) where the acquisition is by a rail affiliate.

And that at each report these crucial findings were made subject to a reservation of power to impose the future conditions.

No later report of the commission or of any division of the commission ever purported to modify or vacate those findings or the proviso reservation which was a part of the findings.

The requirements of hearings and findings are valuable procedural rights.

And where the commission acts after a hearing required by law and makes findings required by law, it disclaims any power to make a farce out of the hearing and out of the findings by taking action that substantially differs from the findings, to issue a certificate that differs substantially from the findings that are made in the commission's report.

Rather the commission believes that when such a matter is discovered, called to its attention, it has both the power and duty to correct the certificate to confirm with the findings as required by law.

Now we submit that every tribunal, court, or administrative agency inherently has this power to put back the integrity of its proceedings and the case of the courts, rule 68 or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is express that clerical mistakes in judgments orders or other parts of the record and errors therein arising from oversight or omission maybe corrected by the court at any time of its own initiative or on the motion of any party and after such notice if any as the court orders.

Section 17(3) of the Interstate Commerce Act provides that the commission shall conduct its proceedings under any provision of law in such manner as we are conduced to the proper dispatch of business and the ends of justice.

Now we submit that under this provision the commission has the same power of a court to correct clerical errors in its orders and certificates.

In our brief, we call attention to other cases, other examples in which the commission has occasion to correct obvious error in certificates of public opinions and necessity.

An example which is not in our brief, but which illustrates the point more sharply than any which we do mention, the commission once issued a certificate authorizing service among other points to Norris Town, New Jersey.