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U.S. Supreme Court

Board of Railroad Comm'rs v. Great Northern Ry. Co., 281 U.S. 412 (1930)

Board of Railroad Commissioners v. Great Northern Railway Company

No. 364

Argued April 17, 1930

Decided May 19, 1930

281 U.S. 412

Page 281 U. S. 416

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

On May 8, 1929, the Board of Railroad Commissioners of the State of North Dakota made an order prescribing intrastate class rates. The existing rates were reduced about 10 per cent, and the order was made effective on July 1, 1929. The appellees, common carriers engaged in interstate transportation and also in intrastate transportation in North Dakota, brought this suit on June 25, 1929, in the district court to enjoin enforcement of the order pending the determination by the Interstate Commerce Commission of the question whether the intrastate rates, as thus prescribed, cause an undue or unreasonable discrimination against interstate commerce in violation of § 13 of the Interstate Commerce Act. The district court, composed of three judges, as required by statute, granted an interlocutory injunction to this effect, 33 F.2d 934, and the Railroad Commission of the state and the other state officials, who were defendants, have brought this appeal.

On August 26, 1920, the Interstate Commerce Commission, in a proceeding known as Ex parte 74, authorized a general advance in interstate freight rates throughout the United States. Increased Rates, 1920, 58 I.C.C. 220. The appellees then applied to the Board of Railroad Commissioners of North Dakota for authority to make

Page 281 U. S. 417

increases in the North Dakota intrastate class rates to correspond with the increases which had been made in the interstate class rates. The State Commission denied the application. Thereupon, in a proceeding (Docket No. 12,085) under § 13 of the Interstate Commerce Act, the Interstate Commerce Commission made a finding that the interstate rates established by the carriers as a result of the decision in Ex parte 74 were reasonable for interstate transportation, and that the failure correspondingly to increase the intrastate rates within the State of North Dakota resulted in an undue preference to the shippers of intrastate traffic within that state and in an unjust discrimination against interstate commerce. On May 3, 1921, the Interstate Commerce Commission entered an order requiring these carriers to increase the intrastate freight rates in North Dakota so as to correspond with the advances in interstate rates. North Dakota Rates, Fares, and Charges, 61 I.C.C. 504. These increases were made, effective May 27, 1921.

On June 5, 1922, the Board of Railroad Commissioners of North Dakota made an order reciting that the order of the Interstate Commerce Commission of May 3, 1921, practically deprived the State Commission of its power to regulate intrastate rates, and that appropriate action should be taken to terminate the disability. Upon application by the State Commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission (July 22, 1922) vacated its order of May 3, 1921, insofar as it related to intrastate rates in North Dakota, stating that

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