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    RAILROAD COMMISSION OF WISCONSIN v. CHICAGO, B. & Q. R. CO., 257 U.S. 563 (1922)

    U.S. Supreme Court

    RAILROAD COMMISSION OF WISCONSIN v. CHICAGO, B. & Q. R. CO., 257 U.S. 563 (1922)

    257 U.S. 563

    RAILROAD COMMISSION OF WISCONSIN et al.
    v.
    CHICAGO, B. & Q. R. CO.
    No. 206.

    Reargued December 5, 6 and 7, 1921,
    Decided Feb. 27, 1922.

    [257 U.S. 563, 564]   The proceeding out of which this case has grown, known as the 'Wisconsin Passenger Fares,' began in an investigation by the Interstate Commerce Commission, under paragraphs 3 and 4 of section 13 of the Interstate Commerce Act as amended by section 416 of the Transportation Act of 1920 (41 Stat. 484), into alleged undue and unreasonable discrimination against interstate commerce arising out of intrastate railroad rates in Wisconsin. The interstate carriers by steam railroad of the state were [257 U.S. 563, 565]   made respondents, and the Governor and State Railroad Commission were duly notified. The Interstate Commerce Commission made its report and order November 27, 1920. Wisconsin Passenger Fares, 59 Interest. Com. Comn. R. 391.

    The Commission had investigated the interstate rates of carriers in the United States, in a proceeding known as Ex parte 74, Increased Rates, 58 Interst. Com. Comn. R. 220, for the purpose of complying with section 15a of the Interstate Commerce Act as amended by section 422 of the Transportation Act of 1920 (41 Stat. 488). That section requires that the Commission so adjust rates that the revenues of the carriers shall enable them as a whole or by groups to earn a fixed net income on their railway property. The Commission ordered an increase for the carriers in the group of which the Wisconsin carriers were a part, of 35 per cent. in interstate freight tates, and 20 per cent. in interstate passenger fares and excess baggage charges, and a surcharge upon passengers in sleeping cars amounting to 50 per cent. of the charge for space in such cars to accrue to the rail carriers. Thereupon the carriers applied to the Wisconsin Railroad Commission for corresponding increases in intrastate rates. The state commission granted increases in intrastate freight rates of 35 per cent., but denied any in intrastate passenger fares and charges on the sole ground that a state statute prescribed a maximum for passengers of 2 cents a mile.

    In the Wisconsin Passenger Fares, the Interstate Commerce Commission found that all of the respondent carriers of Wisconsin transported both intrastate and interstate passengers on the same train, with the same service and accommodations; that the state passenger paying the lower rate rode on the same train, in the same car, and perhaps in the same seat with the interstate passenger who paid the higher rate; that the circumstances and conditions were substantially similar for interstate as for intrastate passenger service in Wisconsin; that travelers destined [257 U.S. 563, 566]   to, or coming from, points outside the state, found it cheaper to pay the intrastate fare within Wisconsin and the interstate fare beyond the border than to pay the through interstate fare; that undue preference and prejudice were shown by the falling off of sales of tickets from border line points in Minnesota and Michigan to stations in Wisconsin, and by a marked increase in sales of local tickets from corresponding border line points in Wisconsin to stations in Wisconsin; that the evidence as to the practice with respect to passenger fares applied in like manner to the surcharge upon passengers in sleeping and parlor cars and to excess baggage charges.

    The Commission further found that the fare necessary to fulfill the requirement as to net income of this interstate railroad group under section 15a was 3.6 cents per mile, and that this was reasonable, that the direct revenue loss to the Wisconsin carriers, due to their failure to secure the 20 per cent. increase in intrastate fares, would approximate $2, 400,000 per year if the 3-cent fare fixed by the President under federal war control were continued, and $6,000,000 per year if the 2-cent fare named in the state statute should become effective.

    The Commission found that there was undue, unreasonable and unjust discrimination against persons traveling in interstate commerce and against interstate commerce as a whole; and ordered that the undue discrimination should be removed by increases in all intrastate passenger fares and excess baggage charges and by surcharges corresponding with the increases and surcharges ordered in interstate business.

    The order was made without prejudice to the right of the authorities of the state or of any other party in interest to apply in the proper manner for a modification of the order as to any specified intrastate fares or charges if the latter were not related to the interstate fares or charges in such a way as to contravene the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act (24 Stat. 379). [257 U.S. 563, 567]   The carriers filed bills in equity, of which the present is one, in the District Court to enjoin the State Railroad Commission and other state officials from interfering with the maintenance of the fares thus ordered and published.

    Application for interlocutory injunction was made to the District Court under section 266 of the Judicial Code (Comp. St. 1243). After a hearing before three judges, they granted an interlocutory injunction from which this appeal was taken.

    Messrs. M. B. Olbrich and Ralph M. Hoyt, both of Madison, Wis., for appellants.

    [257 U.S. 563, 573]   Messrs. Robert Bruce Scott, of Chicago, Ill., Alfred P. Thom, of Washington, D. C., and Kenneth F. Burgess, of Chicago, Ill., for appellee.

    [257 U.S. 563, 578]   Mr. John E. Benton, of Washington, D. C., for 45 States, amici curiae.

    Mr. Patrick J. Farrell, of Washington, D. C., for Interstate Commerce Commission.

    Mr. Chief Justice TAFT, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the Court.

    The Commission's order, interference with which was enjoined by the District Court, effects the removal of the unjust discrimination found to exist against persons in interstate commerce, and against interstate commerce by fixing a minimum for intrastate passenger fares in Wisconsin at 3.6 cents per mile per passenger. This is done under paragraph 4 of section 13 of the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended by the Transportation Act of 1920, which authorizes the Interstate Commerce Commission, after a prescribed investigation, to remove--

    We have two questions to decide.

    First. Do the intrastate passenger fares work undue prejudice against persons in interstate commerce, such as to justify a horizontal increase of them all?

    Second. Are these intrastate fares an undue discrimination against interstate commerce as a whole which it is the duty of the Commission to remove?

    We shall consider these in their order.

    First. The report and findings of the Commission undoubtedly show that the intrastate fares work an undue discrimination against travelers in interstate commerce and against localities (Houston & Texas Ry. v. United States, 234 U.S. 342 , 34 Sup. Ct. 833) in typical instances numerous enough to justify a general finding against a large class of fares. In a general order thus supported, possible injustice can be avoided by a saving clause allowing any one to except himself from the order by proper showing. This practice is fully sustained by precedent in what was done as a sequence of the Shreveport Case (Houston & Texas Ry. Co. v. United States, supra). See Meredith v. St. Louis Southwestern R. Co., 34 Interst. Com. Comn. R. 472; Railroad Comn. of Louisiana v. Arkansas Harbor Terminal Railway Co., 41 Interst. Com. Comn. R. 83; Eastern Texas R. R. Co. v. R. R. Commission (D. C.) 242 Fed. 300; Looney v. R. R. Co., 247 U.S. 214 , 38 Sup. Ct. 460. In Illinois C. R. R. Co. v. Public Utilities Commission, 245 U.S. 493, 508 , 38 S. Sup. Ct. 170, this court indicated its approval of such practice which was adopted by the Commission. Business Men's League of St. Louis v. Atchison & S. F. R. Co., 49 Interst. Com. Comn. R. 713. Any rule which would require specific proof of discrimination as to each fare or rate and its effect would completely block the remedial purpose of the statute.

    The order in this case, however, is much wider than the orders made in the proceedings following the Shreveport and Illinois Central Cases. There, as here, the report of the Commission showed discrimination against persons [257 U.S. 563, 580]   and localities at border points, and the orders were extended to include all rates or fares from all points in the state to border points. But this order is not so restricted. It includes fares between all interior points although neither may be near the border and the fares between them may not work a discrimination against interstate travelers at all. Nothing in the precedents cited justifies an order affecting all rates of a general description when it is clear that this would include many rates not within the proper class or the reason of the order. In such a case, the saving clause by which exceptions are permitted cannot give the order validity. As said by this court in the Illinois Central R. R. Case:

    See, also, American Express Co. v. Caldwell, 244 U.S. 617, 627 , 37 S. Sup. Ct. 656

    If, in view of the changes, made by federal authority, in a large class of discriminating state rates, it is necessary from a state point of view to change nondiscriminating state rates to harmonize with them, only the state authorities can produce such harmony. We cannot sustain the sweep of the order in this case on the showing of discriminations against persons or places alone.

    Second. The report of the Commission shows that if the intrastate passenger fares in Wisconsin are to be limited by the statute of that state to 2 cents per mile, and charges for extra baggage and sleeping car accommodations are to be reduced in a corresponding degree, the net income of the interstate carriers of the state will be cut six millions of dollars below what it would be under intrastate rates on the same level with interstate rates. Under paragraphs 3 and 4 of section 13 and section 15a as enacted in sections 416 and 422 respectively of the Transportation Act [257 U.S. 563, 581]   of 1920 (which are given in part in the margin1), are such reduction and disparity an 'undue, unreasonable or unjust discrimination against interstate or foreign commerce' which the Interstate Commerce Commission may remove by raising the intrastate fares? A short reference to the circumstances inducing the legislation and a summary of its relevant provisions will aid the answer to this question. [257 U.S. 563, 582]   The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, 24 Stat. 379, was enacted by Congress to prevent interstate railroad carriers from charging unreasonable rates and from unjustly discriminating between persons and localities. The railroads availed themselves of the weakness and cumbrous machinery of the original law to defeat its purpose, and this led to various amendments culminating in the amending Act of 1910, 36 Stat. 539, in which the authority of the Commission in dealing with the carriers was made summary and effectively complete. Whatever the causes, the fact was that the carrying capacity of the railroads did not thereafter develop proportionately with the growth of the country, and it became difficult for them

    Section 422 of the Transportation Act, 1920, 41 Stat. L. 488.

    The Interstate Commerce Act is further amended by inserting, after section 15, a new section to be known as section 15a and to read as follows:

    Under title 2 it made provision for the termination of federal control March 1, 1920, for the refunding of the carriers' indebtedness to the United States, and for a guaranty for six months to the carriers of an income equal to the war-time rental for their properties, and directed that for two years following the termination of federal control, the Secretary of the Treasury, upon certificate of the Commission might make loans to the carriers not exceeding the maximum amount recommended in the certificate, out of a revolving fund of $300,000,000.

    Under title 4, amendments were made to the Interstate Commerce Act which included section 13, paragraphs 3 and 4, and section 15a, already quoted in the margin. The former for the first time authoirzes the Commission to deal directly with intrastate rates where they are unduly discriminating against interstate commerce-a power already indirectly exercised as to persons and localities, with approval of this court in the Shreveport and other cases. The latter, the most novel and most important feature of the act, requires the Commission so to prescribe rates as to enable the carriers as a whole or in groups selected by the Commission, to earn an aggregate annual net railway operating income equal to a fair return on the aggregate value of the railway property used in transportation. For two years, the return is to be [257 U.S. 563, 585]   5 1/2 per cent., with 1/2 per cent. for improvements, and thereafter is to be fixed by the Commission.

    The act sought to avoid excessive incomes accruing, under the operation of section 15a, to the carriers better circumstanced by using the excess for loans to the others and for other purposes. The act further put under the control of the Interstate Commerce Commission, first, the issuing of future railroad securities by the interstate carriers; second, the regulation of their car supply and distribution and the joint use of terminals; and, third, their construction of new lines, and their abandonment of old lines. The validity of some of these provisions has been questioned. Upon that we express no opinion. We only refer to them to show the scope of the congressional purpose in the act.

    It is manifest from this very condensed recital that the act made a new departure. Theretofore the control which Congress through the Interstate Commerce Commission exercised was primarily for the purpose of preventing injustice by unreasonable or discriminatory rates against persons and localities, and the only provisions of the law that inured to the benefit of the carriers were the requirement that the rates should be reasonable in the sense of furnishing an adequate compensation for the particular service rendered and the abolition of rebates. The new measure imposed an affirmative duty on the Interstate Commerce Commission to fix rates and to take other important steps to maintain an adequate railway service for the people of the United States. This is expressly declared in section 15a to be one of the purposes of the bill.

    Intrastate rates and the income from them must play a most important part in maintaining an adequate national railway system. Twenty per cent. of the gross freight receipts of the railroads of the country are from intrastate traffic, and 50 per cent. of the passenger receipts. The ratio of the gross intrastate revenue to the [257 U.S. 563, 586]   interstate revenue is a little less than one to three. If the rates, on which such receipts are based, are to be fixed at a substantially lower level than in interstate traffic, the share which the intrastate traffic will contribute will be proportionately less. If the railways are to earn a fixed net percentage of income, the lower the intrastate rates, the higher the interstate rates may have to be. The effective operation of the act will reasonably and justly require that intrastate traffic should pay a fair proportionate share of the cost of maintaining an adequate railway system. Section 15a confers no power on the Commission to deal with intrastate rates. What is done under that section is to be done by the Commission 'in the exercise of its powers to prescribe just and reasonable rates,' i. e., powers derived from previous amendments to the Interstate Commerce Act, which have never been construed or used to embrace the prescribing of intrastate rates. When we turn to paragraph 4, 13, however, and find the Commission for the first time vested with a direct power to remove 'any undue, unreasonable, or unjust discrimination against interstate or foreign commerce,' it is impossible to escape the dovetail relation between that provision and the purpose of section 15a. If that purpose is interfered with by a disparity of intrastate rates, the Commission is authorized to end the disparity by directly removing it, because it is plainly an 'undue, unreasonable, and unjust discrimination against interstate or foreign commerce,' within the ordinary meaning of those words.

    Counsel for appellants, not able to satisfy their meaning by the suggestion of any other discrimination to which they apply, are forced to the position that the words are tautological and a mere repetition of 'any undue or unreasonable advantage, preference or prejudice as between persons and localities in intrastate commerce on the one hand and interstate or foreign commerce on the other hand,' which precede them. In view of their apt application [257 U.S. 563, 587]   to the most not at liberty to take such a view. If 'undue, not at liaberty to take such a view. It 'undue, unreasonable and unjust discrimination against interstate or foreign commerce' are tautological, why are they followed by the phrase 'which is hereby prohibited and declared to be unlawful'? To accompany a meaningless phrase with words of such special emphasis would be unusual.

    It is urged that in previous decisions notably the Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U.S. 352 , 33 Sup. Ct. 729, 48 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1151, Ann. Cas. 1916A, 18, the Shreveport Case, supra, and the Illinois Central Case, supra, the expression 'unjust discrimination against interstate commerce' was often used when, as the law then was, it could only mean discrimination as between persons and localities, and therefore that it is to be given the same limited meaning here. But, here, the general words are used after discrimination against persons and localities have been specifically mentioned. The natural inference is that even if they include what has gone before, they mean something more. When we find that they aptly include a kind of discrimination against interstate commerce which the operation of the new act for the first time makes important and which would seriously obstruct its chief purpose, we cannot ignore their necessary effect.

    Counsel for appellants are driven by the logic of their position to maintain that the valuation required for the purposes of section 15a to be ascertained pursuant to section 19a of the Interstate Commerce Act (37 Stat. L. 701; amended 41 Stat. L. 493) is to be only of that part of the property and equipment of the interstate carriers which is used in commerce among the states and must be segregated from that used in intrastate commerce. This is contrary to the construction which since the enactment of section 19a, March 1, 1913, the Commission has put upon that section in carrying out its injunction. It is inadmissible. The language of section 15a refutes such interpretation. The percentage [257 U.S. 563, 588]   is to be calculated on 'the aggregate value of the railway property of such carriers held for and used in the service of transportation.' To impose on the Commission the duty of separating property used in the two services when so much of it is used in both, and to do this in a reasonably short time for practical use, as contemplated by the statute, would be to assign it a well-nigh impossible task. This, of itself, prevents our giving the words such a construction unless they clearly require it. They certainly do not.

    It is objected here, as it was in the Shreveport Case, that orders of the Commission which raise the intrastate rates to a level of the interstate structure, violate the specific proviso of the original Interstate Commerce Act repeated in the amending acts, that the Commission is not to regulate traffic wholly within a state. To this, the same answer must be made as was made in the Shreveport Case, 234 U.S. 342, 358 , 34 S. Sup. Ct. 833, that such orders as to intrastate traffic are merely incidental to the regulation of interstate commerce and necessary to its efficiency. Effective control of the one must embrace some control over the other in view of the blending of both in actual operation. The same rails and the same cars carry both. The same men conduct them. Commerce is a unit and does not regard state lines, and while under the Constitution, interstate and intrastate commerce are ordinarily subject to regulation by different sovereignties, yet when they are so mingled together that the supreme authority, the Nation, cannot exercise complete effective control over interstate commerce without incidental regulation of intrastate commerce, such incidental regulation is not an invasion of state authority of a violation of the proviso.

    Great stress is put on the legislative history of the Transportation Act to show that the bill was not intended to confer on the Commission power to remove any discrimination against interstate commerce involved in a [257 U.S. 563, 589]   general disparity between interstate and intrastate rates. Committee reports and explanatory statements of members in charge made in presenting a bill for passage have been held to be a legitimate aid to the interpretation of a statute where its language is doubtful or obscure. Duplex Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443, 475 , 41 S. Sup. Ct. 172. But when taking the act as a whole, the effect of the language used is clear to the court, extraneous aid like this cannot control the interpretation. Pennsylvania R. R. Co. v. International Coal Co., 230 U.S. 184, 198 , 33 S. Sup. Ct. 893, Ann. Cas. 1915A, 315; Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 490 , 37 S. Sup. Ct. 192, L. R. A. 1917F, 502, Ann. Cas. 1918B, 1168. Such aids are only admissible to solve doubt and not to create it. For the reasons given, we have no doubt in this case.

    Counsel for the appellants have not contested the constitutional validity of the statute construed as we have construed it, although the counsel for the state commissions whom we permitted to file briefs as amici curiae have done so. The principles laid down by this court in the Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U.S. 352, 432 , 433 S., 33 Sup. Ct. 729, 48 L. R. A. (N.S.) 1151, Ann. Cas. 1916A, 18, the Shreveport Case, 234 U.S. 342, 351 , 34 S. Sup. Ct. 833, and the Illinois Central Case, 245 U.S. 493, 506 , 38 S. Sup. Ct. 170, Which are rates cases, and in the analogous cases of Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commision, 221 U.S. 612, 618 , 31 S. Sup. Ct. 621; Southern Ry. Co. v. United States, 222 U.S. 20, 26 , 27 S., 32 Sup. Ct. 2; Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U.S. 1, 48 , 51 S., 32 Sup. Ct. 169, 38 L. R. A. (N. S.) 44, we think, leave no room for discussion on this point. Congress in its control of its interstate commerce system is seeking in the Transportation Act to make the system adequate to the needs of the country by securing for it a reasonable compensatory return for all the work it does. The states are seeking to use that same system for intrastate traffic. That entails large duties and expenditures on the interstate commerce system which may burden it unless compensation is received for the intrastate business reasonably proportionate to that for the [257 U.S. 563, 590]   interstate business. Congress as the dominant controller of interstate commerce may, therefore, restrain undue limitation of the earning power of the interstate commerce system in doing state work. The affirmative power of Congress in developing interstate commerce agencies is clear. Wilson v. Shaw, 204 U.S. 24 , 27 Sup. Ct. 233; Luxton v. North River Bridge Co., 153 U.S. 525 , 14 Sup. Ct. 891; California v. Pacific Railroad Co., 127 U.S. 1, 39 , 8 S. Sup. Ct. 1073. In such development, it can impose any reasonable condition on a state's use of interstate carriers for intrastate commerce, it deems necessary or desirable. This is because of the supremacy of the national power in this field.

    In Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U.S. 399 , 33 Sup. Ct. 739, 48 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1151, Ann. Cas. 1916A, 18, where relevant cases were carefully reviewed, it was said:

    It is said that our conclusion gives the Commission unified control of interstate and intrastate commerce. It is only unified to the extent of maintaining efficient regulation of interstate commerce under the paramount power of Congress. It does not involve general regulation of intrastate commerce. Action of the Interstate Commerce Commission in this regard should be directed to substantial disparity which operates as a real discrimination [257 U.S. 563, 591]   against, and obstruction to, interstate commerce, and must leave appropriate discretion to the state authorities to deal with intrastate rates as between themselves on the general level which the Interstate Commerce Commission has found to be fair to interstate commerce.

    It may well turn out that the effect of a general order increasing all rates, like the one at bar, will, in particular localities, reduce income instead of increasing it, by discouraging patronage. Such cases would be within the saving clause of the order herein, and make proper, an application to the Interstate Commerce Commission for appropriate exception. So, too, in practice when the state commissions shall recognize their obligation to maintain a proportionate and equitable share of the income of the carriers from intrastate rates, conference between the Interstate Commerce Commission and the state commissions may dispense with the necessity for any rigid federal order as to the intrastate rates, and leave to the state commissions power to deal with them and increase them or reduce them in their discretion.

    The order of the District Court granting the interlocutory injunction is

    Affirmed.

    Footnotes

    [ Footnote 1 ] Paragraphs 3 and 4 of section 13 of section 416 and section 15a of section 422 of the same act are as follows:

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