UNITED STATES V. ICC, 337 U. S. 426 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. ICC, 337 U.S. 426 (1949)

United States v. Interstate Commerce Commission

No. 330

Argued March 2, 1949

Decided June 20, 1949

337 U.S. 426


The United States, as a shipper, having undertaken to provide wharfage and handling services at certain piers, requested the railroads to make an allowance for expenses thus incurred, since the shipside rates allegedly included charges for wharfage and handling services. The railroads refused to make an allowance and to perform the services. The United States thereupon filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission a complaint alleging that, in refusing to make an allowance for wharfage and handling services, the railroads had exacted payment of rates which were unreasonable, unjustly discriminatory, and otherwise in violation of the Interstate Commerce Act, and asking that the Commission find the charges unlawful and award the Government reparations. The Commission denied reparations, and ordered the complaint dismissed. The United States then sued in the District Court to set aside the Commission order. The Interstate Commerce Commission and the United States itself were made defendants. The District Court, composed of three judges, dismissed the suit. On direct appeal to this Court, held: the dismissal of the suit was error, and the case should have been considered on its merits. Pp. 337 U. S. 428-430.

1. Although the case be that of United States v. United States et al., the principle that a person may not maintain an action against himself is inapplicable, since there are involved here controversies of a type which are traditionally justiciable. Pp. 337 U. S. 430-431.

2. Provisions of law making the United States a statutory defendant in court actions challenging Commission orders do not evidence a congressional purpose to bar the Government from challenging such orders. Pp. 337 U. S. 431-432.

(a) Congress did not intend to make it impossible for the Government to press a just claim which could be vindicated only by challenging a Commission order in Court. P. 337 U. S. 431.

(b) However anomalous it may be for the Attorney General to appear on both sides of the same controversy, nothing in the

Page 337 U. S. 427

Interstate Commerce Act indicates a congressional purpose to amend prior statutes which imposed primary responsibility on the Attorney General to seek judicial redress for the Government. Pp. 337 U. S. 431-432.

(c) The Interstate Commerce Act contains adequate provisions for protection of Commission orders by the Commission and by the railroads when, as here, they are the real parties in interest, and the Commission and the railroads in this case have availed themselves of the statutory authorization. P. 337 U. S. 432.

3. The District Court had jurisdiction of the action under 28 U.S.C. § 41(28) [now § 1336], and that jurisdiction was not barred in this case by § 9 of the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 9. Pp. 337 U. S. 432-440.

(a) Section 9 does not give complete finality to a Commission order merely because a shipper elected to file a complaint with the Commission. Pp. 337 U. S. 433-440.

(b) A Commission order dismissing a shipper's claim for damages under 49 U.S.C. § 9 is an "order" subject to challenge under 28 U.S.C. § 41(28) [now § 1336]. Pp. 337 U. S. 440-441.

4. Judicial review of a Commission order denying reparations does not require a three-judge court. Pp. 337 U. S. 441-443.

5. The fact that this case was heard and determined by a District Court of three judges, rather than by one judge, does not require dismissal here, and the cause is remanded to the District Court for determination on the merits of the allegations of the complaint. Pp. 337 U. S. 443-444.

78 F.Supp. 580 reversed.

A District Court of three judges dismissed a suit brought by the United States to set aside an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission (269 I.C.C. 141) denying an award of reparations to the Government as a shipper. 78 F.Supp. 580. The United States took a direct appeal to this Court. Reversed and remanded, p. 337 U. S. 444.

Page 337 U. S. 428

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