Interstate Commerce Commission v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company

PETITIONER: Interstate Commerce Commission
RESPONDENT: Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company
LOCATION: Juvenile Court

DOCKET NO.: 14
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 383 US 576 (1966)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1965
DECIDED: Mar 22, 1966

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Interstate Commerce Commission v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 06, 1965 in Interstate Commerce Commission v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company

Earl Warren:

Number 40 -- Number 14, Interstate Commerce Commission, Petitioner, versus Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company et al.

Mr. Ginnane.

Robert W. Ginnane:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case began with an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission which did only one thing.

It ordered the respondent railroads, pay reparations of about $8900 to a shipper, Thomson Phosphate Company, based upon shipments of ground phosphate rock from Florida points at -- in Illinois.

This Court granted the Commission's petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that the respondent railroads could bring suit, seeking review of the Commission's reparation order under the statutory provisions governing the review of Commission orders generally.

We contend that contrary to the court below that the railroads may not bring suit to challenge a Commission order awarding reparation, but that they may attack that order only by way of defense to the Commi -- to the shipper's suit seeking to enforce the reparation order under the provisions of Section 16, paragraph 2 of the Interstate Commerce Act.

We contend that only in this way can there be effectuated two congressional purposes.

First, to leave to the shippers rather than to the Government, the enforcement of reparation orders and secondly, to accord to the shippers' specific procedural rights as to venue cost and attorney's fees which will enable shippers to assume that work.

The railroad brought this suit in 1961 in the United States' District Court for the Middle District of Florida, naming United States and the Commission as defendants.

The shipper was not named as a defendant and has not intervened.

The railroads brought this suit in Florida in reliance upon three statutory provisions.

The first was Section 17, paragraph 9 of the Interstate Commerce Act which is set forth in our brief at page 3.

We submit that on its face, 17 (9) is simply a requirement for the exhaustion of administrative remedies.

The railroad contend that 17 (9) refers us to the Judicial Code, Section 1336, that's in our brief at page 2, which provides that except as otherwise provided by Act of Congress, the District Court shall have jurisdiction of any civil action to enforce, enjoin, set aside any order of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

The railroad further point to the venue provision 1398 of the Judicial Code, which provides that such an action shall be brought only in the judicial district wherein is the residence or office of plaintiff or one of the plaintiffs.

So the railroad contended in this case that under Section 1336, they could bring their own direct action in the District Court for review of the Commission's reparation order and that under the general venue provision of 1398, they could bring it in Jacksonville, Florida where the Atlantic Coast Line, a respondent here and a plaintiff below, has its principle place of business.

Now, we admit that 1336 and 1398 of the Judicial Code, provide for the judicial review of the general wrong of ICC orders.

However, we contend that they are -- those two sections are rendered inapplicable by the specific provisions of Section 16, paragraph 2 of the Interstate Commerce Act as to what shall happen when the Commission directs railroads to pay reparations to a shipper.

Before getting into the heart of the problem, I can refer briefly to the prior Court decisions on this point.

This Court has never given plenary consideration to the point.

In 1911, in Southern Railway Company v. United States, the former Commerce Court of United States held on a literal reading of its jurisdiction to review any order of the Commission that it could entertain such a suit by a railroad at attacking a reparation order.

That case has not been cited since 1911.

Later in 1924, a three-judge district court and in 1937 the Third Circuit, have held that a railroad may not maintain such a direct suit.

I might also say that a mere glance at the annotations to Section 16 (2) of the Annotation Code, shows that there are large number of cases in which the courts have look up reparation orders in the context of a suit brought by the shipper under 16 (2).

For 50 years, except for three -- of three cases in which I have mentioned before and this case, for 50 years, the courts have reviewed reparation orders in the context of a suit brought by the shipper.

Before going into the details of Section 16 (2), I think it may be useful to point out the Court the status of a reparation order issued by the Commission as compared to the other types of orders, many other types of orders which the Commission issues.

Since the Hepburn amendments of 1906, with the exception of orders for the payment of money, the Commission's orders are self-executing, self-operating, in that they must be obeyed subject to penalty unless a court sets them aside.

And it was -- in making orders – such orders other than for the payment of money, self-operative for the first time in 1906 that Congress for the first time provided for direct review of Commission orders.

In addition, if a railroad fails to obey any order of the Commission other than for the payment of money, the Commission or any party injured may go into court and seek affirmative enforcement.