TIME Incorporated v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Roosevelt Bar and Tavern

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 359 US 464 (1959)
ARGUED: Jan 20, 1959
DECIDED: May 18, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for TIME Incorporated v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 20, 1959 (Part 1) in TIME Incorporated v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 20, 1959 (Part 2) in TIME Incorporated v. United States

Bryce Rea, Jr.:

-- are substantively identical in their treatment of the problem of rate regulation.

They adopted what was then and is now, the vogue in rate regulation.

That is the filed rate theory.

The seller of the service fixes a rate, files it with the Commission, it becomes effective, the Commission's control is a legislative control to alter it for the future, either on complaint or on its own motion, that's all spelled out by this Court very recently in the Mobile case and again to some extent in the Memphis case.

In this respect Part II differs in Part I of these (Voice Overlap) --

Bryce Rea, Jr.:

In this respect, Part II differs from Part I and that brings me, Mr. Justice Harlan, to the root of the holding of the court below.

The court first said Montana-Dakota doesn't apply here, because all the Montana-Dakota case held was that a complaint to a federal District Court that a rate charged by a regulated power company was unreasonable in the past, states no cause of action under the Federal Power Act, therefore, said the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court dismissed the complaint there being no diversity of citizenship between the parties.

We submit that the Court's holding is far broader than that.

It did not, we submit, take this case to determine whether or not, or to delimit rather, federal jurisdiction in the sense of delimiting the jurisdiction of District Courts, since your course -- or courts have limited jurisdiction.

The holding is squarely this, as we see it.

The right to a reasonable rate is the right to the rate that's filed and effective with the Commission.

No court can authorize any other rate, so no court can entertain a cause of action claiming a right to another rate.

The Commission cannot authorize any other rate as a judicial matter respecting any period in the past.

The Commission's authority is the legislative authority to fix rates for the future.

Therefore, to hold that a cause of action existed, would be to say that the Court can entertain a cause of action in which it can decide no issue, then the Commission can entertain a complaint which the statute does not permit it to entertain namely, a complaint directed to the past rates, then the Commission can make a finding and then the Court can go ahead and render a judgment.

In other words, it would be saying, we submit, to read the Montana case as the court below read it that the absence of power in the courts, coupled with the absence of power in the Commission, can somehow create power in both of them together.

The Government's argument and shippers arguments generally, they go into the Court, they file their suit and the Court said, "We can't determine what's an unreasonable rate."

The shipper then runs over to the Interstate Commerce Commission and files a complaint alleging that this rate was unreasonable in the past.

Of course, there's no authority in the Commission's act authorizing it to make adjudications as to the past, but the shipper says, "Oh, the Court has a cause of action pending."

You therefore, as a collaborative instrument of justice, to use Justice Frankfurter's phrase in the Montana-Dakota case, can rend, make a finding.

Well, as the majority held and as Justice Frankfurter speaking for the majority -- speaking for the minority agreed, where you have properly filed rates, no allegation of fraudulent filing, such as was present in Montana-Dakota and is not present here, the whole theory of rate regulation is premised on the proposition that errors in rates, unreasonable rates, will be corrected by prospective action by the Commission in the proscription of other rates for the future.

Now, the Court of Appeals and respondent here, then go over and argue after all, there is a cause of action against a rail carrier which codifies the rail --- the shipper's common-law right to a reasonable rate.

There must be also such a right against the common carrier by motor and they make two arguments.

They say first, the declaration in the Act, that rates shall be just and reasonable, creates a right, creates a cause of action in a shipper.

They admit that the Act provides no method for its enforcement, but they say we can improvise the method namely, suit by the shipper in a common-law court or in a -- in a common-law court followed by reference of the issue of reasonableness to the Commission.

But we submit that Part I, regulating rail carriers and its specific provisions go far toward negativing any intention on the part of the Congress to create similar rights under Part II in regulating motor carriers.

Part I, to begin with, Section 8, specifically says that "Anybody damaged by anything done by a rail carrier in violation of the Act, shall have redress in damages."

Section 9 provides that the shipper may either complain to the Commission pursuant to the complaint section which is 13 (1) or may sue in a federal District Court.

Section 13 provides for the filing of complaints.

Section 16 provides for the issuance of orders by the Commission determining the amount of damages any person has suffered by a railroad's violation of the Act and the issuance of an order to compel payment.