Union Pacific Railroad Company v. United States

PETITIONER: Union Pacific Railroad Company
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Approximately half-way between Santa Marta, Colombia and Miami. Florida (by water)

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 362 US 327 (1960)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1960
DECIDED: Apr 04, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Union Pacific Railroad Company v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1960 in Union Pacific Railroad Company v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 98, Union Pacific Railroad Company, Appellant, versus United States.

Mr. Collins, you may proceed.

Elmer B. Collins:

May it please the Court.

This is a direct appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, a direct appeal from the summary judgment issued by that court.

The basis of the summary judgment being as I construe the Court's decision that Union Pacific Railroad Company, appellant here, in furnishing and performing for shippers, the slow service or a fast service or any and all shippers, whichever service they elect, without any tariff specification or publication of either type of service, necessarily violates the Interstate Commerce Act, Section 6, paragraph 7 and Section 1 of the Elkins Act in furnishing the slow service.

The Court then issued an injunction enjoining the Union Pacific from performing the slow service without tariff publication or unless and until the railroad had a tariff lawfully on file with the Interstate Commerce Commission specifying the slow service or offering in published tariff form the slow service, but of course not the fast service, and specify an additional or extra charge for the slow service.

Now we will discuss two propositions or contentions.

First that the furnishing of either a fast or a slow service by a railroad, and in this case Union Pacific in particular, does not without tariff publication which is never been required, which is not expressly required by statute or by any rule, order or regulation issued by the Commission.

Furnished both or either, a slow or a fast service of the same published tariff rate, under those circumstances, does not violate either the Interstate Commerce Act or the Elkins Act.

I further contend that if there is anything wrong, however, in such furnishing of service without extra charge for the one service or tariff publication for the one service, then it involves matters that are so purely administrative.

That they belong within the primary jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission and should be dealt with by that Commission instead of trying to cure the problem, which I will shortly explain --

Does the District Court's decision, Mr. Collins, affect the primary jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission?

Elmer B. Collins:

The District Court -- what was your question please?

My question was whether the decision of the District Court affected in any way the primary jurisdiction.

Elmer B. Collins:

It does a very curious thing.

The -- the holding of the Court, the conclusions of law of the District Court are flatly to the effect that the slow service violates the Elkins Act and Section 6 (7) of the Interstate Commerce Act.

The Court then after making those flat conclusions of law, which one would think would completely nullify the slow service, as the Court believe what it was saying, nevertheless, issues an injunction which says that “You're enjoined from performing a slow service unless you file a tariff with the Interstate Commerce Commission and have it lawfully on file there specifying the slow service and naming special charge for it.”

The Court, however, refused to dismiss the complaint and remand this matter to the Commission, so we can have a doubt there with all other railroads that performed both slow and fast service.

Now, I'd like to have this map, these maps brought in here in the hope that you can at least see the black line from the bench.

The maps are in the record in this sad looking form and they require -- require quite a bit of doing to unfold them.

They can be unfolded and examined closely.

I want to give you the background of this whole situation.

(Inaudible) if it is possible for you to see these black lines on the -- well --

Mr. Collins, may I ask you --

Elmer B. Collins:

Well, that's -- that's -- that puts the case in its true light if we can -- even if you we can't see them, I'll explain it [Laughs] by pointing to the northwest corner in the map.

There, I should say first that we have always had in the railroad business what is called “roller traffic”.

That's the traffic that originates at its point of production.

The producer knows no buyer, but he knows the general area within which he generally finds the customer.

So he turns it over the railroad and started rolling, as we call it, and then transfer a buyer while it's in -- it's moving for its destination.

That is a practice that is as old as railroads themselves.