U.S. Supreme Court ICC v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 225 U.S. 306 (1912)
Interstate Commerce Commission v.
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company
Argued January 15, 16, 1912
Decided June 10, 1912
225 U.S. 306
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COMMERCE COURT
The Commerce Court has jurisdiction of a petition of a carrier to restrain an affirmative order of the Interstate Commerce Commission that it desist from paying allowance for lighterage to one shipper unless it pay the same to other shippers, and also has power to determine whether such order was entitled to be enforced.
The Commerce Court has power to allow a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission directing the carrier to desist from paying allowances for lighterage.
An appeal to this Court from an interlocutory order of the Commerce Court allowing a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of an affirmative order of the Interstate Commerce Commission lies under § 2 of the act creating the court, now § 210 of the new Judicial Code.
Under § 210 of the Judicial Code, injunction orders can be issued by the Commerce Court restraining the enforcement of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission in the following classes of cases:
First. A temporary restraining order staying in whole or in part the operation of the order for not more than sixty days to be allowed by the court or a judge thereof.
Second. A preliminary injunction to restrain or suspend in whole or in part the operation of the Commission's order pendente lite to be granted by the court.
Third. A perpetual injunction upon entry of final decree.
The requirements in § 210, Judicial Code, that a restraining order must contain a statement of facts as to irreparable damage resulting from the order of the Commission relates only to the first class of cases.
This Court will not apply to the construction of the equity powers of a statutory court general principles of equity if the effect would be to destroy the law creating the court by expunging therefrom the very powers which Congress intended to grant, and so held that the power given by § 210, Judicial Code, to the Commerce Court to issue an injunction pendente lite was to enable that court to have proper time for consideration, and the right of appeal to this Court was given as a safeguard against a possible abuse of the power to issue the order, and the order will not be reversed in the absence of such abuse. Where Congress creates a special tribunal for a special class of cases with an appeal to this Court, it is the duty of this Court to give effect to that purpose and uphold the lawful authority of the court so created and to also correct abuse of power when it appears.
In this case, held that there was no abuse of power in issuing the order for an injunction pendente lite, and the order is affirmed and the case remanded so that there may be opportunity to dispose of it in the forum selected by Congress for that purpose.
The facts, which involve the jurisdiction of the Commerce Court and its power to issue restraining orders and injunctions, are stated in the opinion.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a suit instituted in the Commerce Court to enjoin the enforcement of an order by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
The complainants in the bill are the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company, the Erie Railroad Company, the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, the New York, Ontario & Western Railway Company, and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. The Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal and John Arbuckle and William A. Jamison, copartners trading as the Jay Street Terminal, intervened and were made parties complainant, they being interested to defeat the order of the Commission.
The defendant named in the bill is the United States. The Interstate Commerce Commission appeared, and the Federal Sugar Refining Company intervened and was made a party defendant.
The order which it was the purpose of the suit to enjoin was made in a proceeding commenced before the Commission on behalf of the Federal Sugar Refining Company to compel the railroads above named to desist and abstain from paying to Arbuckle Brothers, claimed to be operating what is known as the Jay Street Terminal, certain so-called allowances for floatage, lighterage, and terminal services rendered by them to the complainants in connection with sugar transported by them in New York harbor to and for the complainants, while at the same time paying no such allowances to the said Federal Refining Company on its sugar.
We substantially adopt as accurate a summary statement made of the subject matter of the controversy in the brief of counsel for the railroad companies:
"The Federal Sugar Refining Company has a refinery at Yonkers, New York, and Arbuckle Brothers have a refinery in the Borough of Brooklyn, New York City. The railroad companies operate what are known as trunk line railroads, extending from New York to western and southern points. In order to receive and deliver freight in New York City, they are obliged to transport the same across the waters of New York harbor on lighters by what is called lighterage service, or, when the freight is carried through in railroad cars, on car floats by what is called floatage service."
"At numerous points along the New York City waterfront within the lighterage limits, they have established public stations for the receipt and delivery of freight."
"They have also established boundaries known as 'lighterage limits,' including substantially all of what may be called manufacturing and commercial portion of the waterfront of New York City and the opposite shore of New Jersey, and within these boundaries they receive and deliver freight at any accessible point on the waterfront without any additional charge above the New York rates, which are, generally speaking, the same as the rates
to and from the terminals on the New Jersey shore. At 'public' docks open to any vessel, the railroad pays the wharfage; at private docks the shipper or consignee must arrange for the necessary dockage."
"At a number of points in the Boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx, the railroad companies or some of them furnish public stations through arrangements made with terminal companies to furnish union public stations and terminal facilities for the receipt and delivery of freight in cars and through freight houses, and for the transportation of such freight between such terminal stations and the railroad companies' rails on the western shore of the harbor, all of which is done for and in the name of the railroad companies under provisions of their tariffs filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission under which their New York rates apply to and from such union public stations."
"One of these public terminal stations, known as the Jay Street Terminal, is owned and operated by William A. Jamison and John Arbuckle, conducting a separate business in that respect as copartners under the name and style of 'Jay Street Terminal,' in accordance with the laws of the State of New York. Jay Street Terminal is named as a station of the railroad companies, appellees, in their respective tariffs, and is conducted under contract with the railroad companies like any other freight station, bills of lading issued from and to it on behalf of the railroad companies and in their names, on the regular uniform form, charges being collected and accounts kept, the Jay Street Terminal performing the entire physical and clerical service and furnishing the necessary docks, freight yard, and station buildings and equipment, excepting cars. The Jay Street Terminal also floats or lighters all shipments between the terminal and the rails of the railroad companies on the New Jersey shore. For these services and facilities each railroad company pays to the
Jay Street Terminal an aggregate compensation figured on the freight handled for it, based on the rate of 4 1/5 cents per hundred pounds on freight originating at or destined to points at or west of the westerly limits of Trunk Line Territory, so called, and 3 cents per hundred pounds on freight originating at or destined to points east of the westerly limit of Trunk Line Territory. The same amounts per hundred pounds are paid to other terminal companies furnishing similar service at New York."
"The refinery of Arbuckle Brothers, a copartnership composed of William A. Jamison and John Arbuckle, is within two blocks of the Jay Street Terminal, and they truck sugar from their refinery to this terminal and load it into cars at their own expense and deliver it to the Jay Street Terminal, and obtain the railroad company's bill of lading for it from the Jay Street Terminal just as other shippers do with other freight."
"The refinery of the Federal Sugar Refining Company at Yonkers, New York, formerly operated by the Federal Sugar Refining Company of Yonkers, is located on the Hudson River, 10 miles north of the limits of the lighterage limits. The sugar manufactured at this refinery and shipped over the lines of these appellees is loaded onto lighters of the Ben Franklin Transportation Company, an independent boat line with which the Federal Sugar Refining Company has made a contract under which the boat line lighters its sugar to the terminals of the railroad companies for 3 cents per hundred pounds. The boat line brings the sugar to the terminals of the railroads on the western shore of New York harbor and delivers it to them for rail transportation."
"The Federal Sugar Refining Company's refinery at Yonkers is located directly on the tracks of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company. Over this railroad, the rates to the points in the shipping territory of the Federal Sugar Refining Company are, with few
exceptions, the same as the rates via the lines of the railroad companies. To ship at the New York rate over the lines of the roads, the Federal Sugar Refining Company can deliver its shipments to the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad at Yonkers, thence to be transported by that railroad to New York, and there delivered to the said railroad companies within lighterage limits. None of these railroads has lines extending to Yonkers. Because of alleged delay in the handling and transportation of shipments via this route, the Federal Sugar Refining Company sometimes prefers to deliver said shipments by lighter to the said railroad companies at their stations on the New Jersey shore of New York harbor."
"Prior to July, 1909, these shipments were carried by the Ben Franklin Transportation Company directly to the rail terminals on the Jersey shore from Yonkers without stop. Since that date, the lighters stop en route at Pier 24, North River. The reason for stopping at Pier 24 is found in the decision made by the Commission in case No. 1082, brought by the Federal Sugar Refining Company of Yonkers, the predecessor of the Federal Sugar Refining Company, against the same railroad companies, appellees here (17 I.C.C. 40). The complaint in that proceeding claimed a discrimination against the Federal Sugar Refining Company of Yonkers and in favor of the Jay Street Terminal and the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, an incorporated company operating a similar terminal station in another section of Brooklyn, because of the refusal of the railroad companies to pay it the same amounts on account of the lighterage performed by the Ben Franklin Transportation Company from Yonkers to the rail terminals of the railroad company on the western shore of New York harbor as were paid to the two terminal companies above named on account of the various services performed and terminal facilities furnished by them in connection with the transportation of sugar shipped by
Arbuckle Brothers and the American Sugar Refining Company, respectively. This complaint was dismissed because the extension of the lighterage limits in New York harbor of the railroad companies was a matter of business discretion, and that the Commission had no authority to require such extension beyond the then prescribed boundaries, and that the Federal Sugar Refining Company, being located outside of the prescribed lighterage limits, was not subject to unlawful discrimination by reason of the practice of the railroad companies in affording free lighterage on shipments originating at a distance to points within said lighterage limits while refusing to so afford on shipments of the Federal Sugar Refining Company."
"As a result of this decision of the Commission, the lighters of the Ben Franklin Transportation Company were stopped en route from Yonkers at Pier 24, North River, where certain formalities with reference to shipping orders were had for the purpose of making it appear as a matter of law that these shipments were made not from Yonkers, but from Pier 24, North River, a point within lighterage limits. A new complaint was filed with the Commission, setting forth the same grounds of discrimination as the prior one, but on the theory that the decision of the Commission did not apply because the shipments of the Federal Sugar Refining Company were now lightered from Pier 24, a point within lighterage limits, and not from Yonkers. The Commission held as a matter of law that the stoppage of the lighters of the Ben Franklin Transportation Company for instructions at Pier 24 differentiated the case from the former one, and made the following order:"
" It is ordered that the above-named defendants [the appellees] be and they are hereby notified and required to cease and desist on or before the 15th day of April, 1911, and for a period of not less than two years thereafter abstain from paying such allowances to Arbuckle Brothers
on their sugar, while at the same time paying no such allowance to said complainant [Federal Sugar Refining Company] on its sugar, which said allowances so paid to said Arbuckle Brothers by said defendants are found by the Commission in said report to be unduly discriminatory and in violation of the Act to Regulate Commerce."
"The so-called 'allowances' referred to in this order are a part of the payments making up the compensation of the Jay Street Terminal, figured at the rates of 3 cents and 4 1/5 cents per hundred pounds, as above described."
This is the order the enforcement of which was the subject matter of the controversy in the court below.
The United States, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the Federal Sugar Refining Company promptly filed motions to dismiss the petition and the intervening petition of the Jay Street Terminal upon the ground of want of equity and because the order of the Commission was an adjudication of matters of fact as to which its judgment was conclusive. The petitioners, on the other hand, applied for an injunction pendente lite suspending the order of the Commission until the final determination of the action. The motions to dismiss were denied. On the same day, the motion for a temporary injunction -- which had been heard upon the petition and intervening petitions and affidavits submitted by petitioners in support of the averments of the petition and intervening petition -- was granted, and the assailed order "and its force and effect" were suspended until the further order of the court. This appeal was then taken.
There was clearly a right in the court below to entertain jurisdiction of the petition, and to determine whether the affirmative order of the Commission was entitled to be enforced. There was clearly also power in the court to allow a preliminary injunction, since that authority is conferred in express terms by § 3 (208) of the act. And
the right to appeal from such an order is also in express terms conferred by § 2 (210) of the act.
It is urged on behalf of the United States and the Interstate Commerce Commission that, wholly irrespective of the merits of the petition, the order granting the interlocutory injunction must be reversed because of what is insisted to be the express requirements of the act imposing the duty on the Commerce Court or a judge of that court, if a restraining order is granted under the conditions in the statute, to state the facts from which it is found that irreparable injury would arise if a restraining order were not allowed. The section containing the provision relied upon is as follows:
"That suits to enjoin, set aside, annul, or suspend any order of the Interstate Commerce Commission shall be brought in the Commerce Court against the United States. The pendency of such suit shall not of itself stay or suspend the operation of the order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, but the Commerce Court, in its discretion, may restrain or suspend, in whole or in part, the operation of the Commission's order pending the final hearing and determination of the suit. No order or injunction so restraining or suspending an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission shall be made by the Commerce Court otherwise than upon notice and after hearing, except that, in cases where irreparable damage would otherwise ensue to the petitioner, said court, or a judge thereof, may, on hearing, after not less than three days' notice to the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Attorney General, allow a temporary stay or suspension in whole or in part of the operation of the order of the Interstate Commerce Commission for not more than sixty days from the date of the order of such court or judge, pending application to the court for its order or injunction, in which case the said order shall contain a specific finding, based upon evidence submitted to the judge making the
order and identified by reference thereto, that such irreparable damage would result to the petitioner, and specifying the nature of the damage. The court may, at the time of hearing such application, upon a like finding, continue the temporary stay or suspension in whole or in part until its decision upon the application."
Without ambiguity, we think the statute contemplates three classes of orders: first, a temporary restraining order staying in whole or in part the operation of the order of the Interstate Commerce Commission for not more than sixty days from the date of the suspensive order, to be allowed by the court or a judge thereof; second, a preliminary injunction -- that is, an injunction pendente lite, which, to quote the words of the statute, may be granted by the court to "restrain or suspend, in whole or in part, the operation of the Commission's order pending the final hearing and determination of the suit;" third, in the nature of things, a perpetual injunction upon the entry of the final decree. The order in this case, made after notice and hearing, suspending the force and effect of the order of the Commission until the further order of the court, was obviously an exercise of the power conferred to grant a preliminary injunction or injunction pendente lite, and not of the power to allow a temporary restraining order embraced in the first of the classes stated. As we think it clear that the requirements of the statute relied upon respecting the statement of facts as to irreparable damages relate only to the first class of cases -- that is, the power to issue a temporary restraining order -- we hold the objection to be without merit.
This brings us to consider the scope of our reviewing authority under the right conferred by the statute to appeal from the allowance by the court below of a preliminary injunction or injunction pendente lite. To determine this question requires a consideration of the nature and character of the powers which the court had a right to
exert over the subject matter presented to it by petition filed to perpetually enjoin the enforcement of the order of the Commission.
We have determined in the Procter & Gamble case, ante, p. 225 U. S. 282 , that the Commerce Court was but endowed in considering whether an affirmative order of the Commission should be enforced, on the one hand, or set aside and declared nonenforceable, on the other, with the jurisdiction and power existing at the time that act was passed in the circuit courts of the United States. And as, at that time, it was conclusively settled that the courts had only authority to reexamine the findings of the Commission as to subjects like the one here under consideration for the purpose of ascertaining whether the action of the Commission was repugnant to the Constitution, in excess of the statutory powers conferred upon it, or manifested such an abuse as to be equivalent to an excess of authority, it clearly results that the court below was likewise limited in passing upon the petition before it in this case. This being true, it is also necessarily true that virtually the sole authority of the court below was in a sense confined to determining questions of law arising upon the case as presented on the face of the pleadings. Under the general principles of equity, where a court is called upon to decide whether it will allow a preliminary or pendente lite injunction, the duty arising requires it to be determined whether, on the face of the papers presented, there is such an equitable cause of action presented as justifies the issue of a preliminary injunction to preserve the status pending the suit -- that is, to afford an opportunity for a trial of the issues presented. Necessarily it is true also that, where an appeal is allowed from an order granting a preliminary injunction, the reviewing court is put to the duty of determining whether, on the face of the papers, the court below erred as a matter of law in granting the preliminary injunction. Do these principles apply to the case before
us is then the first consideration. The result of holding that they do will inevitably cause the expunging from the Act of the express authority conferred to issue a preliminary injunction, since, viewed under the general principles of equity, the criteria by which to determine the rightfulness of such an order in view of the nature an character of the jurisdiction of the Commerce Court is exactly and exclusively the same criteria by which the rightfulness of a final decree of that court, issuing a perpetual injunction in conformity to such decree, would require to be tested. Our duty, however, is not to destroy the law, but to enforce it, and in doing so to seek to discover the intention of the lawmaker, the wrong intended to be prevented, and the remedy designed to be afforded by the enactment of the statute. Coming to consider the statute for this purpose, we have pointed out in the Proctor & Gamble case that the great remedy intended to be accomplished was the concentration in a single court of the power to consider the rightfulness of enforcing or setting aside orders of the Commission; that, to prevent unnecessary delays, the limitations as to restraining orders and their duration, and the hearing which is commanded as to irreparable injury, were enacted. It must therefore in reason be that the power to issue a preliminary injunction was recognized and preserved so as to afford the court the proper time for deliberation and consideration of the questions to be decided by the Commission, instead of compelling that body, virtually eo instante upon the presentation of a petition, to reach a final conclusion. And it would seem also to be the case that the right to appeal from such an order was given as a safeguard against a possible abuse of discretion by an unwarranted, arbitrary, and unreasonable exercise of the power conferred. In other words, we think that the enlightened purpose of Congress was that the court which it created, in the exercise of the important trusts confined to its authority,
and where occasion required it as a consequence of the gravity and complexity of the legal questions which might arise, should be afforded ample opportunity for due consideration and ripe judgment, and that it was not intended to compel precipitate, and perhaps ill considered, action.
Coming to consider the case presented in the light of these principles, in view of the doubt which existed as to the scope and effect of the powers conferred upon the Commission, as shown by the decision of the Court in the Procter & Gamble case, of the nature and character of the subject matter here under consideration and its importance, of the action of the Commission had on that subject prior to the making of the order of the Commission which was assailed by the petition, and especially of the diversity of opinion which existed among the members of the Commission on the subject, we think there is no room for saying that the preliminary injunction issued was in excess of the power conferred upon the court, because of the plain want of necessity for it, resulting from the obvious nature and character of the legal questions as to which the judgment of the court was invoked in consequence of the filing of the petition calling for the exertion of the authority conferred upon it by Congress.
It is not disputable that, although the right to appeal to this Court from an order like the one here in question is conferred, yet obviously the purpose which must have caused the creation of the Commerce Court must have been the desire to interpose between the action of the Commission and this Court an intermediate tribunal, having the powers which the statute delegates to it. Our duty is to give that purpose effect and to uphold the lawful authority of the court without deviation, and yet without hesitancy, where there has been an abuse of discretion, to correct it in the completest way. But, as this case manifests no such abuse, our duty is not to reverse the action of the court, but to remand the case, so that
there may be an opportunity to dispose of it on the merits in the forum selected by Congress for that purpose. Of course, in saying this, we must not be understood as deciding or in any way implying that the duty would not exist to examine the merits of a preliminary order of the general character of the one before us in a case where it plainly, in our judgment, appeared that the granting of the preliminary order was in effect a decision by the court of the whole controversy on the merits, or where it was demonstrable that grave detriment to the public interest would result from not considering and finally disposing of the controversy without remanding to enable the court below to do so.