POWELL V. UNITED STATES, 300 U. S. 276 (1937)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Powell v. United States, 300 U.S. 276 (1937)

Powell v. United States

No. 295

Argued January 12, 1937

Decided March 1, 1937

300 U.S. 276


1. An order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, in proceedings begun on the complaint of a carrier, directed that there be stricken from the Commission's files a tariff filed by another carrier purporting to extend the switching limits of the latter to include receiving and delivery tracks belonging to the United States at a military post, and to oblige that carrier to furnish transportation to and from the post under other tariffs applicable over its own lines to and from a junction. Held that, in purpose and effect, the order was affirmative, and that a suit to annul it, brought by the carrier whose tariff was thus rejected, was within the jurisdiction of the District Court of three judges under 28 U.S.C. 47. P. 300 U. S. 284.

2. With the consent of the Secretary of War, the lessees of a railroad owned by the United States in a military reservation were employed by a connecting trunk-line carrier as its agents to transport over the leased tracks to and from the military post freight coming from or destined for the trunk line, and the trunk line was given permission to perform the transportation with its own engines and crews, the lessees reserving the right to render like services to other carriers when required by the Secretary.


(1) That, in respect of the traffic covered by the trunk line's tariff, the lessees, as its agents, were common carriers, and they and the service performed by them were subject to the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission. P. 300 U. S. 285.

(2) That whether the leased tracks were, within the meaning of § 1(18) of the Interstate Commerce Act, an extension or addition, or, within the meaning of § 1(22), spur, industrial, team, switching, or side tracks, the transportation over them by or for the trunk line must be covered by a tariff filed in accordance with § 6(7) of the Act. P. 300 U. S. 286.

(3) The action of the Secretary of War was not inconsistent with proper exertion of the Commission's authority under §§ 1(18) and 1(20). P. 300 U. S. 286.

Page 300 U. S. 277

(4) The leased tracks covered by the tariff were part of, and extended to or included a station on, the line of the railroad company within the meaning of § 6. P. 300 U. S. 286.

3. The purpose of §§ 1(18) to 1(22) of the Act was to empower the Commission, in proceedings instituted by a carrier proposing to engage in transportation over or by means of an additional or extended line, authoritatively to decide whether it would be in the public interest. P. 300 U. S. 286.

4. Upon presentation by the carrier of application for a certificate, the Commission, for the purpose of determining whether it is authorized by the Act to consider the merits, may pass incidentally upon the question whether the project is one covered by § 1(18). But the decision of that question is for the court in a suit to set aside an order granting a certificate or in a suit under § 1(20) to enjoin a violation of § 1(18). P. 300 U. S. 287.

5. An interested carrier is not authorized by the Act to initiate proceedings before the Commission to determine whether the use of leased tracks by another carrier would be in the public interest, but it may intervene before the Commission if application for a certificate is made, or, no such application having been made, it may sue under § 1(20) to enjoin construction or operation contrary to § 1 (18). P. 300 U. S. 287.

6. The remedy provided by § 1(20) is inconsistent with a proceeding before the Commission to attain the same end, and suits under that paragraph may not be tried before three judges, whereas those under the Urgent Deficiencies Act (28 U.S.C. 47) to set aside orders of the Commission cannot be tried in any other court. P. 300 U. S. 288.

7. In suits under § 1(20), appeals must be taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals, whereas appeals from District Courts of three judges must be taken to this Court. The statutes cannot be construed to give the Commission, a carrier, or other party seeking to enforce § 1(18) a choice of remedies -- i.e., between a proceeding before the Commission to invalidate the applicable tariff and a suit under § 1(20). The latter is exclusive. P. 300 U. S. 288.

8. There is no evidence in this case that inclusion of the government line within the trunk line's tariff without additional charges unduly impaired the line-haul revenue. P. 300 U. S. 289.

9. Findings by the Commission in another proceeding in which it rejected an application by another corporation, formed by the

Page 300 U. S. 278

lessees, for a certificate of public convenience and necessity have no bearing on the validity of the tariff involved in this case. P. 300 U. S. 289.

10. In a suit by a railroad to set aside an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission striking out a tariff, a counterclaim by an intervening carrier seeking to enjoin the complainant's operation of part of the line covered by the tariff upon the ground that it is an extension violative of § 1(18) is not related to the cause of action alleged in the complaint, is not pleadable under Equity Rule 30, and is not within the jurisdiction of a court of three judges under 28 U.S.C. 47. P. 300 U. S. 289.

12 F.Supp. 938 reversed.

Appeal from a decree of the District Court of three judges in a suit brought by receivers of the Seaboard Air Line Railway to annul an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission striking out a tariff. The final decree overruled the Government's motion to dismiss, sustained the order, and granted affirmative injunctive relief against the plaintiff in accordance with a counterclaim set up by a competing carrier.

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