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CANADA PACKERS, LTD. v. ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE RAILWAY CO.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT. No. 11.
Argued November 8-9, 1966.
Decided December 5, 1966.
Where a domestic railroad enters into a joint through international rate covering transportation from the United States to Canada, the Interstate Commerce Commission has jurisdiction in a reparations proceeding to determine the reasonableness of the joint through rate and to order the carrier performing the domestic service to pay reparations in the entire amount by which that rate is unreasonable. News Syndicate Co. v. New York Central R. Co., 275 U.S. 179 , followed.
342 F.2d 563, reversed.
Charles B. Myers argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.
Harvey Huston argued the cause and filed a brief for respondents.
Louis F. Claiborne, by special leave of Court, argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae. On the brief were Solicitor General Marshall, Assistant Attorney General Turner, Richard A. Posner and Robert B. Hummel. Leonard S. Goodman argued the cause for the Interstate Commerce Commission, as amicus curiae, urging reversal. With him on the brief was Robert W. Ginnane.
This case concerns the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission in reparations proceedings to determine the reasonableness of a joint through international freight rate. The American railroad respondents and their connecting carriers delivered 131 cars of potash from Carlsbad and Loving, New Mexico, to petitioner's [385 U.S. 182, 183] plants in Canada. Petitioner was charged and it paid a joint through international rate which it later attacked as unreasonable in a reparations proceeding before the Commission. Finding the rate to be unreasonable, the Commission ordered reparations in the amount of the difference between the rate charged and the rate which would have been reasonable at the time. Respondents refused to pay part of this amount on the theory that it represented an alleged overcharge for the Canadian leg of the trip over which the Commission had no jurisdiction under the applicable statute. This action followed in the District Court to collect the unpaid amount. The District Court found for the petitioner, the Court of Appeals reversed, 342 F.2d 563, and we granted certiorari, 383 U.S. 906 .
The provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act apply not only to transportation within the United States but to transportation from or to any place in the United States to or from a foreign country "but only insofar as such transportation . . . takes place within the United States." 24 Stat. 379, as amended, 49 U.S.C. 1 (1). The Court of Appeals held that the Commission in this case was without jurisdiction to determine the reasonableness of freight rates for transportation taking place in Canada and hence was without power to order reparations with respect to the Canadian portion of the trip. The respondents and the United States, the latter differing with the Commission in this case, take a similar view. As an original matter there might well be considerable merit in this position. But the contrary view of the Commission is one of long standing, see Black Horse Tobacco Co. v. Illinois Central R. Co., 17 I. C. C. 588 (1910), and Citizens Gas & Coke Utility v. Canadian Nat. Rys., 325 I. C. C. 527 (1965), and one which this Court has upheld on more than one occasion. News Syndicate Co. v. New York Central R. Co., 275 U.S. 179 , squarely held that where a carrier performing [385 U.S. 182, 184] transportation within the United States enters into a joint through international rate covering transportation in the United States and abroad, the Commission does have jurisdiction to determine the reasonableness of the joint through rate and to order the carrier performing the domestic service to pay reparations in the amount by which that rate is unreasonable. Lewis-Simas-Jones Co. v. Southern Pacific Co., 283 U.S. 654 , and Great Northern R. Co. v. Sullivan, 294 U.S. 458 , are in accord. The Court of Appeals and respondents would distinguish these cases, but we think the differences relied on are insubstantial. Indeed, the United States quite candidly requests that we reconsider these older cases and so narrow the powers of the Commission with respect to joint through international rates. It is not shown, however, that the long-standing construction of the statute by both the Commission and this Court has produced any particularly unfortunate consequences and Congress, which could easily change the rule, has not yet seen fit to intervene. In these circumstances, we shall not disturb the construction previously given the statute by this Court, and the decision of the Court of Appeals must be
An Act of Congress gives the Interstate Commerce Commission jurisdiction over transportation from or to any place in the United States to or from a foreign country "but only insofar as such transportation . . . takes place within the United States." 24 Stat. 379, as amended, 49 U.S.C. 1 (1). How that can be read, "Whether or not such transportation . . . takes place within the United States" remains a mystery. News Syndicate Co. v. New York Central R. Co., 275 U.S. 179 , and Lewis-Simas-Jones Co. v. Southern Pacific Co., 283 U.S. 654 , actually decided something less. [385 U.S. 182, 185] In News Syndicate there was a through rate from a point in Canada to New York City; but the carrier had failed to establish a rate from the international border to New York City. The Court refused to let the jurisdiction of the Commission be defeated in that way and allowed it to determine the reasonableness of the through rate. 275 U.S., at 187 . In the Lewis-Simas-Jones case the Court also emphasized that no tariff applicable "to the American part of the transportation of an international shipment on a through bill of lading" had been established "as required by the Act." 283 U.S., at 663 . Those cases were explained in Great Northern R. Co. v. Sullivan, 294 U.S. 458, 462 .
Moreover, we need not be slaves to a precedent by treating it as standing for more than it actually decided nor by subtly eroding it in sophisticated ways. See Radin, The Trail of the Calf, 32 Cornell L. Q. 137, 143 (1946). It is enough that we do not approve "of the doctrinal generalization which the previous court used" (ibid.) and confine the precedent to what it actually decided. Certainly we should not extend the range of a precedent beyond its generating reason, especially when another policy, here the plain words of an Act of Congress, will be impaired by doing so.
I would affirm this judgment.
And see 1966. C. L. Y. 9921:
[ Footnote 2 ] We have not been reluctant to reverse our own erroneous interpretation of an Act of Congress. See, e. g., Helvering v. Hallock, [385 U.S. 182, 187] 309 U.S. 106 ; Nye v. United States, 313 U.S. 33 ; Toucey v. New York Life Ins. Co., 314 U.S. 118 ; Commissioner v. Estate of Church, 335 U.S. 632 ; James v. United States, 366 U.S. 213 ; Smith v. Evening News Assn., 371 U.S. 195 ; Local No. 438 Construction & General Laborers' Union v. Curry, 371 U.S. 542, 552 ; Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 435 . [385 U.S. 182, 188]