Reiter v. Cooper

PETITIONER: Reiter et al.
RESPONDENT: Cooper, Trustee For Carolina Motor Express, Inc., et al.
LOCATION: City Council of Hialeah

DOCKET NO.: 91-1496
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 507 US 258 (1993)
ARGUED: Dec 01, 1992
DECIDED: Mar 08, 1993

ADVOCATES:
Carter G. Phillips - on behalf of the Petitioners
Joseph L. Steinfeld, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondents
Michael R. Dreeben - on behalf of the United States and ICC, as amici curiae supporting Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Reiter v. Cooper

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 01, 1992 in Reiter v. Cooper

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 91-1496, Peter C. Reiter v. Langdon M. Cooper.

Mr. Phillips.

Carter G. Phillips:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The Court is required in this case to reconcile two core commands of the Interstate Commerce Act.

The first is that the carrier shall charge and collect only the filed tariff rate, and the second is that the carrier shall not charge or collect a rate that is unreasonable.

In this case petitioners, who previously paid all that the carrier charged in order to ship goods, have been ordered in effect to pay what they claim to be unreasonably high rates.

Petitioners, on behalf of the entire shipping--

Byron R. White:

Which was the filed rate.

Carter G. Phillips:

--I'm sorry, Your Honor?

Byron R. White:

Which was the filed rate.

Carter G. Phillips:

That was the filed rate, yes, Your Honor, the one that petitioners take the position and argue in defense that it was unreasonably high.

Petitioners on behalf of the entire shipping industry, which faces claims similar to this one in amounts in excess of billions of dollars, urge the Court to reject the categorical approach proposed by the respondents and adopted by the court of appeals in much the same way that the Court rejected an all or nothing solution to this same problem 2 years ago in the Maislin decision.

Instead what the Court should do is to resolve, is to have these issues resolved on a case-by-case basis with the issue of the rate reasonableness decided by the Interstate Commerce Commission subject to judicial review of the Commission's exercise of primary jurisdiction.

Byron R. White:

Is it your position that even if the carrier filed, charged, sent a bill for the filed rate and the shipper said the rate is unreasonable, should that defense await a ruling by the--

Carter G. Phillips:

No, no, Justice White, that defense should not await a ruling.

In that situation--

Byron R. White:

--Why not?

Carter G. Phillips:

--Section 10743, a separate provision, separate from the filed rate doctrine which is embodied in section 10761(a), specifically provides that the carrier has a right to insist upon payment at the time of the movement of the goods.

And that is the source of the pay first rule which is essentially a rule that the Court has acknowledged in passing on a number of old cases, but that rule has a separate statutory basis.

It's not inherent in the filed rate doctrine, and therefore our position is that if you insist on the payment, and even if the payment is too high in your judgment, you are obliged to follow that because Congress made a specific determination that that's the proper course to follow.

In contrast, Justice White, in this case where the payments were made in full and then additional sums were requested that the--

Byron R. White:

A negotiated rate was paid?

Carter G. Phillips:

--A negotiated rate was paid and then a subsequent request was made.

Nothing in the statute specifically deals with that particular situation, and when you're in a no-man's land then it seems to us a different set of rules ought to apply.

Byron R. White:

But it was a rate, it was a negotiated rate that the carrier had no business charging?

Carter G. Phillips:

That's true.

The carrier was, acted unlawfully in charging that rate at the time.

He should have filed those rates.

Byron R. White:

Didn't the shipper also?

Carter G. Phillips:

No, if you... the provision, section 19761 and 10762 both provide that it is the carrier's duty to comply with the law.