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Cases citing this case: Circuit Courts
SMYTH v. AMES, 171 U.S. 361 (1898)

U.S. Supreme Court

SMYTH v. AMES, 171 U.S. 361 (1898)

171 U.S. 361

SMYTH, Atty. Gen., et al.
v.
AMES et al.

SAME
v.
SMITH et al.

SAME
v.
HIGGINSON et al.

Nos. 49, 50, and 51.

May 31, 1898. [171 U.S. 361, 362]   C. J. Smyth, for application.

J. M. Woolworth, opposed.

Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

These cases were determined in this court during the present term, and are reported in 169 U.S. 466 , 18 Sup. Ct. 418. The decree in each case was affirmed. The cases are now before us upon an application by the appellants-the attorney general of Neba ska and his colleagues, constituting the state board of transportation and its secretaries-for a modification of the decree of the circuit court in the respective cases.

The decree in Smyth, Atty. Gen., et al. v. Ames et al., No. 49 (which this court affirmed), was as follows:

The appellants now ask that the decree of the circuit court in that case be modified by striking therefrom the words, 'and below those now charged by said companies, or either of them, or their receivers,' and the words, 'and particularly from reducing t present rates of charges for transportation of freight to those prescribed in said act.'

The decree of the circuit court in Smyth, Atty. Gen., et al. v. Smith et al., No. 50, and the decree in Same v. Higginson et al., No. 51, are substantially the same as the decree in the case of Same v. Ames et al. The appellants in Same v. Smith et al. now ask that the words in the decree, 'and below those now charged by said companies, or either of them,' and the words, 'and particularly from reducing its present rates of charges for transportation of freight to those prescribed in said act,' be stricken out; and the appellants in Same v. Higginson et al. ask that the words, 'and below those now charged by said company,' and the words, 'and particularly from reducing its present rates of charges for transportation of freight to those prescribed by said act,' be stricken from the decree in that case.

The court is of opinion that the present application by the appellants in each of the above cases should be granted. The general question argued before us on the original hearing was whether the rates established by the Nebraska statute, looking at them as an entirety, were so unreasonably low as to prevent the railroad companies from earning such compensation as would be just, having due regard to the rights both of the public and of the companies. In our examination of that question it was appropriate and necessary to inquire as to the earnings of the respective companies under the rates which they had established, looking at those rates, also, as an entirety. In this way we ascertained the probable effect of the statute in question. We did not intend, by an affirmance of the several decrees, to adjudge that the railroad companies should not, at any time in the future, if they saw proper, reduce the rates, or any of them, under which they were con- [171 U.S. 361, 365]   ducting business at the time the final decrees were rendered, nor that the state board of transportation should not reduce rates on specific or particular articles below the rates which the companies were charging on such articles when the decrees were entered. It may well be that on some particular article the railroad companies may deem it wise to make a reduction of the rate, and it may be that the public interests will justify the state board of transportation in ordering such reduction. We have not laid down any cast-iron rule covering each and every separate rate. We only adjudged that the enforcement of the schedules of rates established by the state statute, looking at such rates as a whole, would deprive the railroad companies of the compensation they were legally entitled to receive. We did not pass judgment upon the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the rates on any particular article prescribed by the statute or by the railroad companies. If the state should by statute, or through its board of transportation, prescribe a new schedule of rates, covering substantially all articles, and which would materially reduce those charged by the companies, respectively, or should by a reduction of rates on a limited number of articles make its schedule of rates, as a whole, produce the same result, the question will arise whether such rates, taking into consideration the rights of the public as well as the rights of carriers, are consistent with the principles announced by this court in the opinion heretofore delivered. Of course, the reasonableness of a schedule of rates must be determined by the facts as they exist when it is sought to put such rates into operation.

The decrees in the several cases are hereby modified by striking therefrom the words referred to in the application of the appellants.

The decree in each case, being thus modified, is affirmed.

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