ATCHISON, T. & S.F. R. CO. V. WICHITA BD. OF TRADE, 412 U. S. 800 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Atchison, T. & S.F. R. Co. v. Wichita Bd. of Trade, 412 U.S. 800 (1973)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. v.

Wichita Board of Trade

No. 72-214

Argued February 28, 1973

Decided June 18, 1973*

412 U.S. 800


The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), after hearings, approved imposition by appellant railroads of separate charges for inspection of grain while in transit, a service that had previously been provided under the line-haul rates. Appellees thereupon brought this action in District Court contesting the validity of the ICC order. That court found that the ICC had not adequately justified departure from its longstanding rule that such separate charges are unlawful unless the carriers can satisfy the burden that rests upon them of proving that their line-haul rates are insufficient to cover the total transportation service including the portion thereof for which separate charges are proposed. The court ordered suspension of the in-transit charges unless otherwise ordered by the court, and remanded the case to the ICC.

Held: The action of the District Court is affirmed as to the remand to the ICC and is reversed as to the injunction suspending the proposed charges. Pp. 412 U. S. 806-826; 412 U. S. 828-829.

352 F.Supp. 365, affirmed in part and reversed in part.


1. The ICC, which justified its departure from its prior cases on the ground that the many rates involved rendered the previous requirement impractical, and the new charges, when added to the line-haul rates, would not exceed the ICC-prescribed maximum rate level, has not stated its reasons with sufficient clarity to facilitate proper judicial review of its approval of the in-transit inspection charges. Pp. 806-817.

2. Equitable considerations, including the doctrine of primary jurisdiction as applied to the facts of this case, required that the District Court refrain from expressing a view upon what it

Page 412 U. S. 801

believed was permitted by national transportation policy before the ICC on remand could balance the conflicting interests of shippers, railroads, producers, and consumers in the proposed rate changes, cf. Arrow Transportation Co. v. Southern R. Co., 372 U. S. 658; hence, it was improper for the District Court to enjoin implementation of the proposed new charges. Pp. 412 U. S. 817-825.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS concurred in the affirmance of the remand to the ICC.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE, joined by MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, concurring in the reversal of the injunction, concluded that only the ICC was granted the statutory authority to suspend new freight rates for seven months, and the District Court has no power to extend that period. Pp. 412 U. S. 828-829.

MARSHALL, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the affirmance of the remand to the ICC and dissenting from the reversal of the decree authorizing the injunction, post, p. 412 U. S. 826. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the reversal of the injunction and dissenting from the affirmance of the remand to the ICC, in which BRENNAN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 412 U. S. 828. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

Page 412 U. S. 802

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