United States v. Georgia Public Service Commission

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Georgia Public Service Commission
LOCATION: Beaumont Mills

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 371 US 285 (1963)
ARGUED: Oct 18, 1962
DECIDED: Jan 14, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Georgia Public Service Commission

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 18, 1962 in United States v. Georgia Public Service Commission

Earl Warren:

Number 81, United States, Appellant, versus Georgia Public Service Commission.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Archibald Cox:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case, which is here on direct appeal from a three-judge court sitting in the Northern District of Georgia, raises two questions, the second and third questions on the merits, which were raised in the previous case.

It comes before this Court on direct appeal from a judgment dismissing the Government's complaint for an injunction.

The Government sought an injunction against the enforcement of the Georgia rate schedules on intrastate shipments of goods being shipped on the federal government's bill of lading.

The facts are in no way in dispute.

They may be summarized as follows.

But there are in Georgia 25 federal military establishments and a number of civilian federal establishments.

It's the obligation of the government, in a considerable number of cases when an employee is transferred from post to post for the convenience of the government, to arrange for the transportation of his goods or to reimburse him for the cost of transportation as the government may choose.

The usual practice, and indeed the historic practice, has been for the federal transportation officers to arrange the shipments of these household goods.

They negotiate a rate or award contracts to the lowest bidder.

The property of all the employees will then be shipped on a single government bill of lading.

And, by government bill of lading, I mean not only one to which the government is a party, but a government form of bill of lading which has in it, as I shall point out in more detail later, a number of clauses which are not contained in the usual uniform bill of lading or other bills of lading of that type.

In 19 -- then, the property is paid for of course or the shipment is paid for by the government check in due course of which incidentally usually involves an extension of credit that would be prohibited in the case of a private shipper.

In 1960, there were about 1,100 carrier shipments within Georgia of the household goods of either military or civilian personnel on these government bills of lading.

The procurement activities are governed either by the Armed Forces Procurement Act in the case of property for civilian employees of the Department of Defense or the property of military personnel.

They are governed by Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, which is substantially the same, in the case of shipments of the household goods of civilian personnel.

I will discuss the Act and the regulations a little later.

It's enough to say that in our view, they require procurement officers to obtain the lowest rates possible without regard to state law.

Now, Georgia has a statute of regulating intrastate truck shipments.

It appears on page -- appears on page 69 in the back of our brief, at the beginning of the appendix.

Under Section 613 of their Motor Vehicle Code, the Commission is given power to proscribe just and reasonable rates, fares, and charges for transportation by motor common carriers.

In another section, the Commission is given power to issue rules and regulations necessary to implement the Act and, pursuant to that power, the Commission -- the Georgia Commission has issued a regulation which appears over on page 85, that is very pertinent here.

It requires all shipments to be made under a uniformed household goods bill of lading.

In other words, if this applies, the government cannot adhere to the usual government form of bill of lading.

And down the last sentence in Rule 15, property of two or more families or establishments will not be accepted for transportation as a single shipment.

In other words, the making of a mass shipment of the household goods of 500 or 600 or more people is prohibited at least to the extent that each must be made as a separate shipment under a separate bill of lading.

In July 1960, there was to be such a mass movement, although perhaps not as large as 500 or 600 employees, of employees of the Department of Public Health from Savannah to Atlanta.

Now, the procurement officers of the federal government invited bids.