Universal Interpretive Shuttle Corporation v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission

PETITIONER: Universal Interpretive Shuttle Corporation
RESPONDENT: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission
LOCATION: United States District Court for the District of Columbia

DOCKET NO.: 19
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 393 US 186 (1968)
ARGUED: Oct 21, 1968 / Oct 22, 1968
DECIDED: Nov 25, 1968

ADVOCATES:
Jeffrey L. Nagin - For the Petitioner
Russell W. Cunningham - For the Respondent

Facts of the case

The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for the maintenance of national parks and for providing the facilities necessary to allow the public to enjoy them. In the performance of this duty, the Office of the Secretary of the Interior contracted Universal Interpretive Shuttle Corp (UISC) to provide guided tours of the National Mall on minibuses that visitors may board and disembark at various sites. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission (WMATC) sued to enjoin UISC from conducting tours without obtaining a certificate of convenience and necessity from the WMATC. The district court dismissed the suit, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed without opinion.

Question

Does the Secretary of the Interior retain exclusive rights to contract services for national parks?

Media for Universal Interpretive Shuttle Corporation v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 22, 1968 in Universal Interpretive Shuttle Corporation v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 21, 1968 in Universal Interpretive Shuttle Corporation v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission

Earl Warren:

Number 19, Universal Interpretive Shuttle Corporation, petitioner versus Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission et al.

Mr. Nagin.

Jeffrey L. Nagin:

Mr. Chief Justice, this case is here on a writ of certiorari to review a decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia which reversed a District Court dismissal of the complaints of respondents.

The decision of the Court of Appeals required that the District Court restrain the operation by petitioner under a concession granted by the Secretary of Interior of a mobile interpretive service on the Mall in the District of Columbia, until petitioner secured a certificate of convenience and necessity from WMATC, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission, the local agency created by interstate compact between the States of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

A mobile interpretive service which is a term we're going to be using throughout this proceeding, the purpose of this kind of a service is to provide essentially the same type of narrative guided tour as the park service which of course is a department within the Interior Department, the park service provides two visitors of national parks across the country, except that instead of providing the service on a tour which goes on foot, the Secretary is determined that it would be appropriate to provide it in this instance by using motorized trams which would move at speeds not to exceed 10 miles an hour through the points of interest and around the points of interest permitting the tour to go on.

The principal issue in the case is whether the operation of such a mobile interpretive service by the Secretary through a concessionaire is subject to the certification and regulatory requirements of WMATC.

If the operation proposed by the Secretary of Interior is subject to WMATC jurisdiction, then even though the Secretary is determined that there is a need for the service on the Mall, WMATC would not be allowed to permit the service to be conducted unless it, WMATC, the local agency determined that there was a need.

Furthermore, WMATC would have the obligation to determine that petitioner was qualified to render this service even though the Secretary had made the same determination and if the certificate of convenience and necessity were granted, the local agency would also have the responsibility to supervise under its general regulatory powers the operations of this concession on the Mall.

The setting of the case, the actual physical setting of the case takes place on the Mall of the District of Columbia and when I use the term Mall, not -- I'm using a little bit generally because it could -- it embraces park areas that are adjacent to the Mall such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Ellipse but these are areas all within the exclusive charge that control of the Secretary of the Interior.

I think the -- perhaps the best description of the Secretary's responsibilities in this area are set forth in Sections 1 and 3 of Title 16, United States Code says, the Secretary is charged with the obligation to preserve the -- by such means and measures as conformed to the fundamental purposes of said parks and which purpose is to conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein which I guess on the Mall is probably limited to squirrels and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

In line with this responsibility, the Secretary determined that the facilities on the Mall, the interpretive facilities on the Mall were already crowded to the point where both because of population, pressures and vehicular pressures, he could no longer provide adequately for the visitor interpretive services which he wish to provide under his charge of responsibility.

Using the authority conferred upon him by Title 16 including Sections 1 and 3 and Section 20, the Secretary issued a proposed -- requested proposals from private concessionaires to operate an interpretive service on the Mall and a number of private persons responded including petitioner and including the respondent D.C. Transit with proposals.

The proposal of petitioner was selected.

The Director of the park service Mr. Hartzog stated that he felt that the proposal by the petitioner provided the “Best means” of interpretation and operation.

He also stated what impressed him most about the petitioner was its “interpretive qualifications.”

The Secretary and the petitioner entered into a contract in March of 1967 which called for the rendition of this interpretive service.

The contract specified that the services to be provided on motorized trams, each tram would be manned by a driver and by a guide.

The guide or interpreter would use a script prepared and or rather approved by the Secretary in interpreting the Mall, this because he felt that the and expressly provided for it in the contract that interpretation, the narration part of the service was a prime consideration.

The Secretary wants to have --

Potter Stewart:

You don't have First Amendment issue in this case, do you?

Jeffrey L. Nagin:

No sir, there is no -- no First Amendment.

At least -- at least if there is one, I think my client would be the person who would be in the position to raise it and we're not raising it Mr. Justice Stewart.

The Secretary would have complete control over all facilities, over the employees, over the qualifications, over the training, over the time and method of operation.

The franchise -- a franchise fee of 3% of the gross would be paid by the concessionaire to the United States.

At the time Universal entered into this concession arrangement, they were advised or actually prior to that they were advised by the Secretary that no other agency had economic regulatory jurisdiction over this particular activity, including, since we had asked the question, WMATC.

Are you -- are you going to tell us what use your client would have to make of the streets outside of the park service areas?

Jeffrey L. Nagin:

Actually, I wasn't aware of the fact that they would make use of any streets outsides of the park area because the streets, the Section 8144 of the District of Columbia Code provides that the streets between park areas are under the regulatory or under the regulation of the Secretary.

The trams would cross streets such as 14th Street and so --

So there -- there would be no pick-up point outside the park area that is so defined.

Jeffrey L. Nagin:

There would not be any pick-up points outside the park area.