Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company

PETITIONER: Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen
RESPONDENT: Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company
LOCATION: Surface Transportation Board at the United States Department of Transportation

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 393 US 129 (1968)
ARGUED: Oct 22, 1968
DECIDED: Nov 18, 1968

Facts of the case


Media for Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 22, 1968 in Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company

Earl Warren:

Number 16, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen et. al., appellants versus Chicago, Rock Islands and Pacific Railroad Company

And Number 18 also, Robert N. Hardin, Prosecuting Attorney for Seventh Judicial Circuit of Arkansas versus the Chicago, Rock Islands and Pacific Railroad Company.

Mr. Youngdahl?

James E. Youngdahl:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This was an action by six large railroad companies in a three-judge federal court in Arkansas against officials of the State of Arkansas charged with enforcing two statutes.

The first applies to companies with it at least 50 miles of railroad track, when those companies are operating freight train with 25 cars or more, required the crew of an engineer of firemen, a conductor, and three brakemen.

The second statute applies to railroad companies with at least a 100 miles of track, when operating a switch train over public crossings in urban communities.

It requires a crew of an engineer, a fireman, a foreman and three helpers.

I represent four Railroad Brotherhoods which were permitted to intervene in the lower courts, speaking for the employees affected by these statutes of full crew laws in question, and our defendant interveners, the defendant appellants in this case.

At this stage of a case, it's the second time this case has been here, at this stage of a case, there are four constitutional issues.

The court below found that the statutes violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and constitute an impermissible burden of interstate commerce.

The railroads also urge in this appeal that there are classification infirmaries in the law in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and indiscrimination against interstate commerce.

The normal statement of the case would not apply in our view to this controversy because it has been 50 or 60 years long, when the opinion of the Court has written in this case, it will be the eleventh entry in the United States' reports on exactly the same Arkansas statutes.

There's been extensive substantive discussion of the same constitutional issues involving the same statutes in five previous opinions of this Court, all of which upheld the legislation challenge.

But evidently, the railroad resources are inexhaustible, and we are back again arguing substantially the same issues in 1968.

The first case on the particular statute was in 1911, where the freight crew statute was upheld against three constitutional contentions.

The railroads there argued that with automatic couplers and air brakes, a third brakeman was unnecessary and required an expenditure of a needless amount of money.

Generally, the Court found and held that those questions even then were concluded by former decisions involving railroads and involving similar constitutional issues.

As to the Commerce Clause, we found no violation until Act of Congress displaces the legislation; as to equal protection, several previous decisions involving mileage classifications were noted; and as to due process, the Court found some room for controversy, but found the statute were to remain to the object for this legislature had in view.

So, even if deemed unwise, where the court would not be overruled by the Court.

The 1916 case in this Court involved the switch crew statute.

More summarily, the railroads again, this Court again upheld the statute in question.

This time there were again Commerce Clause, equal protection, and due process argument.

The only new facts that the railroad brought up with respect to that statute in 1916 was that the switch crew statute does not apply to train of a 25 car length.

And that the exemption results in the fact that the covered railroad switch over the same crossing as non-covered railroads, therefore, having classification infirmities.

The Court know that's impossible for legislation to be all comprehensive, that the grouping was reasonable and the statute should be upheld.

The next attempt resulted in the Norwood decision of this Court in 1931.

This time there were four constitutional arguments: due process, equal protection, Commerce Clause, and the Supremacy Clause, arguing at the Railway Labor Act of Interstate Commerce, Comission regulation that preempted the laws.

The railroad made some new factual contentions, saying if there was improvement in road and equipment, that some collective bargaining agreements permitted a smaller crew, and that other states had smaller crews and operator law rights.

This Court found there was no preemption by the Railway Labor Act.