Hayfield Northern Railroad Company, Inc. v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Company

PETITIONER: Hayfield Northern Railroad Company, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Chicago & North Western Transportation Company
LOCATION: Men’s Central Jail

DOCKET NO.: 82-1579
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 467 US 622 (1984)
ARGUED: Feb 21, 1984
DECIDED: Jun 12, 1984

Anne E. Keating - on behalf of the Appellee
Mark Irving Levy - on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae
Robert S. Abdalian - on behalf of the Appellants

Facts of the case


Media for Hayfield Northern Railroad Company, Inc. v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 21, 1984 in Hayfield Northern Railroad Company, Inc. v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Company

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Hayfield Northern Railroad Company against the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company.

Mr. Abdalian.

Robert S. Abdalian:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

This is an appeal from a decision holding that Section 10905 of the Interstate Commerce Act preempts Minnesota condemnation law when that law is applied to property which has been abandoned with ICC approval after the ICC has relinquished all jurisdiction and interest in that line and where a statutorily authorized Minnesota public service corporation seeks to take that line by eminent domain in order to restore rail service to a rural Minnesota community.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Counsel, just what it now at issue in the case?

The rails are gone, aren't they?

Robert S. Abdalian:

That's correct.

There's still land and right of way to take, Justice Blackmun, and there's also a bond at issue.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Do your people propose to put down new rails?

Robert S. Abdalian:

That's correct.

That is correct.

The legal issue before this Court has been well defined by the Court of Appeals.

The factual context in which this case comes to this Court is uncomplicated.

CNW, the Appellee, applied to abandon a line of rail that ran from Iowa to Minnesota.

Part of that line is the 19.2 mile segment that lies totally within Minnesota, which has been referred to in all briefs as the Hayfield segment.

The abandonment was contested by a shippers group.

The challenge to the abandonment was unsuccessful.

The abandonment also was challenged by a shippers group in way that the line could avoid abandonment through a procedure within the Commerce Act itself to subsidize the line and keep that line in interstate commerce.

The shippers group made an offer of subsidy to continue the line in rail service, and that subsidy offer was not accepted and the Interstate Commerce Commission set a subsidy amount.

The shippers group withdrew their offer of subsidy and the shippers group disbanded.

Several months later... the abandonment became final in December of 1981.

Several months later the Hayfield Northern was formed, a Minnesota public service corporation with the delegated power of eminent domain to condemn right of way and track for rail use.

Upon the founding of the Hayfield Northern, the Hayfield Northern immediately sought a temporary restraining order in state court in order to keep the line intact, as the Appellee had already commenced procedures to dismantle the track.

The TRO was granted by the state court after a hearing.

The CNW then removed this case to federal district court.

The federal district court dismissed the action with prejudice and dissolved the injunction.

An appeal was immediately taken to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals stayed the order of the district court upon the posting of a bond.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court.

There are two issues that I wish to emphasize this morning: that is, the difference between pre-abandonment and post-abandonment matters; and that Section 10905 is not the exclusive method in which to transfer property.

It is common ground in this case and all parties agree that if the State of Minnesota or the Hayfield Northern or any other entity would take any action that would affect a common carrier's status as a common carrier that that would be in conflict with the Commerce Act.