ICC V. BAIRD, 194 U. S. 25 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

ICC v. Baird, 194 U.S. 25 (1904)

Interstate Commerce Commission v. Baird

No. 409

Argued March 7-8, 1904

Decided April 4, 1904

194 U.S. 25


The object of construction is to ascertain the legislative intent, and, if possible, to effectuate the purposes of the lawmakers.

Although not in accord with its technical meaning, or its office when properly used, a frequent use of the proviso in federal legislation is to introduce new matter extending, rather than limiting or explaining, that which has gone before.

Page 194 U. S. 26

Under the proviso in § 3 of the Act of February 19, 1903, a direct appeal may be taken to this Court from a judgment of the circuit court in a proceeding brought by the Interstate Commerce Commission, under the direction of the Attorney General, to obtain orders requiring the testimony of witnesses and the production of books and documents.

Relevancy of evidence does not depend upon the conclusiveness of the testimony offered, but upon its legitimate tendency to establish a controverted fact.

Where a company owned by a railroad purchases coal at the mines or breakers under a contract fixing the price to the vendor on the basis of a percentage of the average price received at tidewater in another state, it being claimed that this transaction was the means whereby the railroad gave preferential rates to the companies selling the coal, the Interstate Commerce Commission may, in a proceeding properly instituted, inquire into the manner in which the business is done, and compel, through the circuit court, the testimony of witnesses and the production of the contracts relating thereto.

Where coal companies who had organized a competing line to tidewater made contracts with railroad companies for the purchase of the collieries by the railroad companies, which resulted in the abandonment of the proposed competing line, the contracts are relevant evidence bearing upon the manner in which rates were fixed, and their production before the Commission in an investigation, properly commenced, as to the reasonableness of coal rates, should be ordered by the circuit court.

Compelling the giving of such testimony and the production of such contracts does not deprive the witnesses of any rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

This is an appeal from an order made in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York in the matter of the petition of the Interstate Commerce Commission for orders requiring the testimony of witnesses and the production of certain books, papers, and documents. The petition recites that the Attorney General of the United States at the request of the Interstate Commerce Commission, instructed the United States District Attorney for the Southern District of New York to present the petition and institute proper proceedings for the enforcement of the provisions of the Acts to Regulate Interstate Commerce, as amended, and to invoke the aid of the court in requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of books, papers, and documents, pursuant to the provisions of said acts. The case

Page 194 U. S. 27

grows out of a complaint of William Randolph Hearst, filed on November 2, 1902, with the Interstate Commerce Commission, against the Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company, Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, Central Railroad Company of New Jersey, New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Company, Erie Railroad Company, New York, Ontario & Western Railway Company, Delaware & Hudson Company, Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company.

In the complaint it was charged that the defendants are common carriers, engaged in the transportation of passengers and freight between points in different states of the United States, and are particularly engaged in the transportation of anthracite and bituminous coal mined in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, and shipped as interstate traffic over said lines, and are carriers subject to the provision of the Act of February 4, 1887 to regulate commerce, and the acts amendatory thereto; that the rates charged and exacted by the defendants for the transportation of anthracite coal in carloads from points in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania to New York city and New York harbor points and internal points of destination in the State of New York, to Boston and other points in the New England states, to Baltimore and other points in the State of Maryland, and to Washington, in the District of Columbia, are unreasonable and unjust, and subject consumers and producers of such coal who are not common carriers or corporations owned and controlled by common carriers, to undue and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage in favor of, and to the undue and unreasonable preference and advantage of, said defendants and companies under their control, in violation of sections 1 and 3 of the Act to Regulate Commerce; that the rates charged and exacted by the defendants for the transportation of anthracite coal are relatively unreasonable and unjust, and unjustly discriminating against the interests of dealers and consumers of that commodity

Page 194 U. S. 28

as compared with the rates contemporaneously charged by said defendants for transportation of bituminous coal for much longer distances and to the points of destination above mentioned, and also as compare with the defendants' rates and charges on other carload freight generally, all of which is a violation of §§ 1, 2, and 3 of the Act to Regulate Commerce; that the defendant companies -- Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, Central Railroad Company of New Jersey, Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company, New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Company, and the Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company -- are, in the absence of agreement, natural competitors in the business of transporting anthracite coal from the coal fields of Pennsylvania to tidewater at New York, two of said defendants -- the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company and the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey -- being substantially parallel lines; that in 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, and 1901, the six defendants last named, by an agreement and combination with one another, pooled, and have, during the year 1902, pooled, freights and freight traffic in anthracite coal, so as to divide the same between their different lines in agreed proportions, in violation of § 5 of the Act to Regulate Commerce. The prayer of the petition was that the defendants be required to make answer to the charges, and, after hearing, for an order or orders commanding the said defendants, and each of them, wholly to cease and desist from each and every of the alleged violations of the Act to Regulate Commerce, and for such further order or orders and action by the Commission as its duty under the act and the cause of petitioner and others similarly situated may require. Answers were filed by the railroad companies, taking issue with the allegations of the petition and denying violation of the law. In the course of the hearing, certain witnesses refused to produce contracts and answer questions when required so to do by order of the Commission, which refusal gave rise to the petition to the circuit court. The character of the testimony required by the order of the Commission is sufficiently

Page 194 U. S. 29

set forth in the opinion hereinafter given. To the petition answers were filed too lengthy to abstract, and in substance setting forth the right of the defendants to refuse the production of the papers and documents and to decline to answer the questions because the same did not relate to any subject which the Commission had the right to investigate, and the contracts relate to the private business of persons not parties to the proceedings before the Commission; that the witnesses are protected in their right to refuse to produce the contracts or answer the questions by the Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States; that the contracts were not relevant to the subject matter of investigation before the Commission. The circuit court placed its decision on the latter ground, and dismissed the petition of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Page 194 U. S. 35

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