United States v. New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company
LOCATION: First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles

DOCKET NO.: 45
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 355 US 253 (1957)
ARGUED: Nov 20, 1957
DECIDED: Dec 16, 1957

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 20, 1957 (Part 1) in United States v. New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 20, 1957 (Part 2) in United States v. New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company

Edmund M. Sweeney:

Continuing in the line of answer to the question of Mr. Justice Brennan.

I'd like to say that our position is that there was no real significant change in the responsibilities before or of after 322.

But that I mean this, it is true that before 322 the Government could take its good time about determining whether it owed the money.

But my point and our point here is that that was not a final determination.

If the carrier did not like that, the carrier could go into Court and some judicial tribunal will determine whether or not that was a proper payment by the Government.

Earl Warren:

Who has the burden of proof on --

Edmund M. Sweeney:

In that case, Your Honor, the burden of proof would be on the railroad.

And after 322, the railroads could go in and sue on the amount deducted that is, they could've gone in and sued on this $1025.

And if they have then it would have been up to the railroads to prove their case.

We are not saying in any way that the railroad should be relieved from the burden of proving their case.

We are simply saying that when the railroad sues for one bill and the Government convened by way of affirmative defense at its set off.

We are saying that the railroad does not have the burden of disproving the Government's case.

And conversely, the Government does have the real burden of proving that its counterclaim in set off is valid.

Hugo L. Black:

You know what's valid (Inaudible)

Edmund M. Sweeney:

Well, Mr. Justice, no.

We -- we --

Hugo L. Black:

It's valid on the claims from which it was deducted.

Edmund M. Sweeney:

Yes, we would and we would do that just as a matter of -- of practical mechanics of a -- of a suit.

First of all Mr. Justice, may I explain that -- I don't know how to explain it because I know, you know more about than I do, but there's nothing mystical about a 322 transaction between the Government and the railroads.

They do not at all act at arm's length.

First of all, the railroad and the Government both employed very experienced, highly trained personnel in rates and divisions classification.

And when the Government says that they have overpaid the railroad, the railroad looked it over and there is a -- an amicable interchange of their opinion.

And I would say that possibly at least 95% of the cases where there is a deduction under 322, there is an amicable adjustment.

Now, actually in the case here before us today, that -- that very so -- same thing happened.

They deducted $1025.

After looking the thing over, the railroad agreed that all but $402, it was a proper deduction.

Likewise, the Government agreed, too, that in part of it that Service Order 68 did not apply.

So you see, it's one of those things where they -- it's a workable rule and they tried to work out the best they can.

However, we say that it is not fair or just unreasonable to impute to Section 322 the right in the Government when they have come to a stalemate with the railroad, the right in the Government to say, “Well, I listened to you.

You're a nice fellow, but this is it.