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U.S. Supreme Court

Great Northern Railway Co. v. Washington, 300 U.S. 154 (1937)

Great Northern Railway Co. v. Washington

No. 20

Submitted October 14, 1936

Restored to the Docket October 26, 1936

Argued December 7, 8, 1936

Decided February 1, 1937

300 U.S. 154


1. A State may require a railroad company engaged in interstate commerce to pay a fee, in addition to general taxation of its property in the State, to cover the expense of local inspection and supervision within the State's police power, but the exaction violates both the commerce clause and the Fourteenth Amendment if, beyond those legitimate purposes, it is made and used to defray the cost of other activities of the State, such as local reparation proceedings and litigation before the Interstate Commerce Commission in behalf of shippers. P. 300 U. S. 159.

2. A statute (c. 107, L. Wash., 1929) requires public utilities generally, including railroads, to pay into a common fund each year

Page 300 U. S. 155

a fee of 1/10th of one percent of gross operating revenue of the year preceding, for use in administering the state public service commission law.


(1) That the statute is not void on its face, as applied to an interstate railroad, merely because it exacts fees at the same rate from the railroad and other public utilities as well, or because the proceeds compose a common fund which may be used not only for expense of inspection and supervision, but for other purposes. P. 300 U. S. 161.

(2) But, to sustain the exaction in the case of an interstate railroad, the burden rests upon the State to show that the sums collected from the railroad do not exceed what is reasonably needed in its case for inspection and supervision service. Foote & Co. v. Stanley, 232 U. S. 494. P. 300 U. S. 162.

(3) This burden was not sustained by the evidence in this case. P. 300 U. S. 165.

3. When a claim of federal right has been denied by a state court upon the basis of a finding of fact or of mixed fact and law, this Court must examine the evidence and determine whether it supports the decision against the federal claim. Norris v. Alabama, 294 U. S. 587. P. 300 U. S. 165.

184 Wash. 648, 52 P. 2d 1274, reversed.

Appeal from a judgment which reversed a judgment for the Railway Company in its action to recover fees claimed to have been unconstitutionally exacted by the State.

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