UNITED STATES ET AL. v. FLORIDA EAST COAST RAILWAY CO. ET AL.
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF
Argued December 7, 1972
Decided January 22, 1973
The District Court ruled that appellee railroads were prejudiced by failure of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to hold oral hearings as required by 556 and 557 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) before establishing industry-wide per diem rates for freight-car use. The ICC did receive written submissions from appellees, but refused to conduct the hearings requested by appellees prior to completion of its rulemaking. Held: The language of 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act that "[t]he Commission may, after hearing . . . establish reasonable rules . . ." did not trigger 556 and 557 of the APA requiring a trial-type hearing and the presentation of oral argument by the affected parties; and the ICC's proceeding was governed only by 553 of the APA requiring notice prior to rulemaking. United States v. Allegheny-Ludlum Steel Corp., 406 U.S. 742 . Nor does the "after hearing" language of 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act by itself confer upon interested parties either the right to present evidence orally and to cross-examine opposing witnesses, or the right to present oral argument to the agency's decisionmaker. Pp. 234-246.
322 F. Supp. 725, reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 246. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Samuel Huntington argued the cause for the United States et al. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Griswold, Assistant Attorney General Kauper, Fritz R. Kahn, and Leonard S. Goodman.
A. Alvis Layne argued the cause for appellee Florida East Coast Railway Co. With him on the brief was [410 U.S. 224, 225] Walter G. Arnold. Richard A. Hollander argued the cause and filed a brief for appellee Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Co.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Appellees, two railroad companies, brought this action in the District Court for the Middle District of Florida to set aside the incentive per diem rates established by appellant Interstate Commerce Commission in a rulemaking proceeding. Incentive Per Diem Charges - 1968, Ex parte No. 252 (Sub-No. 1), 337 I. C. C. 217 (1970). They challenged the order of the Commission on both substantive and procedural grounds. The District Court sustained appellees' position that the Commission had failed to comply with the applicable provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., and therefore set aside the order without dealing with the railroads' other contentions. The District Court held that the language of 1 (14) (a) 1 of the Interstate Commerce [410 U.S. 224, 226] Act, 24 Stat. 379, as amended, 49 U.S.C. 1 (14) (a), required the Commission in a proceeding such as this to act in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 556 (d), and that the Commission's determination to receive submissions from the appellees only in written form was a violation of that section because the appellees were "prejudiced" by that determination within the meaning of that section.
Following our decision last Term in United States v. Allegheny-Ludlum Steel Corp., 406 U.S. 742 (1972), we noted probable jurisdiction, 407 U.S. 908 (1972), and requested the parties to brief the question of whether the Commission's proceeding was governed by 5 U.S.C. 553, 2 [410 U.S. 224, 227] or by 556 3 and 557, 4 of the Administrative Procedure Act. We here decide that the Commission's proceeding was governed only by 553 of that Act, [410 U.S. 224, 228] and that appellees received the "hearing" required by 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act. We, therefore, reverse the judgment of the District Court and [410 U.S. 224, 229] remand the case to that court for further consideration of appellees' other contentions that were raised there, but which we do not decide. [410 U.S. 224, 230]
In December 1967, the Commission initiated the rulemaking procedure giving rise to the order that appellees here challenge. It directed Class I and Class II line-haul railroads to compile and report detailed information with respect to freight-car demand and supply at numerous sample stations for selected days of the week during 12 four-week periods, beginning January 29, 1968.
Some of the affected railroads voiced questions about the proposed study or requested modification in the study procedures outlined by the Commission in its notice of proposed rulemaking. In response to petitions setting forth these carriers' views, the Commission staff held an informal conference in April 1968, at which the objections and proposed modifications were discussed. [410 U.S. 224, 232] Twenty railroads, including appellee Seaboard, were represented at this conference, at which the Commission's staff sought to answer questions about reporting methods to accommodate individual circumstances of particular railroads. The conference adjourned on a note that undoubtedly left the impression that hearings would be held at some future date. A detailed report of the conference was sent to all parties to the proceeding before the Commission.
The results of the information thus collected were analyzed and presented to Congress by the Commission during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation of the Senate Committee on Commerce in May 1969. Members of the Subcommittee expressed dissatisfaction with the Commission's slow pace in exercising the authority that had been conferred upon it by the 1966 Amendments to the Interstate Commerce Act. Judge Simpson in his opinion for the District Court said:
The District Court held that in so doing the Commission violated 556 (d) of the Administrative Procedure Act, and it was on this basis that it set aside the order of the Commission.
Both of the district courts that reviewed this order of the Commission concluded that its proceedings were governed by the stricter requirements of 556 and 557 of the Administrative Procedure Act, rather than by the provisions of 553 alone. 6 The conclusion of the District Court for the Middle District of Florida, which we here review, was based on the assumption that the language in 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act requiring rulemaking under that section to be done "after hearing" was the equivalent of a statutory requirement that the rule "be made on the record after opportunity for an agency hearing." Such an assumption [410 U.S. 224, 237] is inconsistent with our decision in Allegheny-Ludlum, supra.
The District Court for the Eastern District of New York reached the same conclusion by a somewhat different line of reasoning. That court felt that because 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act had required a "hearing," and because that section was originally enacted in 1917, Congress was probably thinking in terms of a "hearing" such as that described in the opinion of this Court in the roughly contemporaneous case of ICC v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 227 U.S. 88, 93 (1913). The ingredients of the "hearing" were there said to be that "[a]ll parties must be fully apprised of the evidence submitted or to be considered, and must be given opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, to inspect documents and to offer evidence in explanation or rebuttal." Combining this view of congressional understanding of the term "hearing" with comments by the Chairman of the Commission at the time of the adoption of the 1966 legislation regarding the necessity for "hearings," that court concluded that Congress had, in effect, required that these proceedings be "on the record after opportunity for an agency hearing" within the meaning of 553 (c) of the Administrative Procedure Act.
Insofar as this conclusion is grounded on the belief that the language "after hearing" of 1 (14) (a), without more, would trigger the applicability of 556 and 557, it, too, is contrary to our decision in Allegheny-Ludlum, supra. The District Court observed that it was "rather hard to believe that the last sentence of 553 (c) was directed only to the few legislative sports where the words `on the record' or their equivalent had found their way into the statute book." 318 F. Supp., at 496. This is, however, the language which Congress used, and since there are statutes on the books that do use these [410 U.S. 224, 238] very words, see, e. g., the Fulbright Amendment to the Walsh-Healey Act, 41 U.S.C. 43a, and 21 U.S.C. 371 (e) (3), the regulations provision of the Food and Drug Act, adherence to that language cannot be said to render the provision nugatory or ineffectual. We recognized in Allegheny-Ludlum that the actual words "on the record" and "after . . . hearing" used in 553 were not words of art, and that other statutory language having the same meaning could trigger the provisions of 556 and 557 in rulemaking proceedings. But we adhere to our conclusion, expressed in that case, that the phrase "after hearing" in 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act does not have such an effect.
If we were to agree with the reasoning of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York with respect to the type of hearing required by the Interstate Commerce Act, the Commission's action might well violate those requirements, even though it was consistent with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
The term "hearing" in its legal context undoubtedly has a host of meanings. 7 Its meaning undoubtedly will vary, depending on whether it is used in the context of a rulemaking-type proceeding or in the context of a proceeding devoted to the adjudication of particular disputed facts. It is by no means apparent what the drafters of the Esch Car Service Act of 1917, 40 Stat. 101, which became the first part of 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act, meant by the term. Such an intent would surely be an ephemeral one if, indeed, Congress in 1917 had in mind anything more specific than the language it actually used, for none of the parties refer to any legislative history that would shed light on the intended meaning of the words "after hearing." What is apparent, though, is that the term was used in granting authority to the Commission to make rules and regulations of a prospective nature.
Appellees refer us to testimony of the Chairman of the Commission to the effect that if the added authority ultimately contained in the 1966 amendment were enacted, the Commission would proceed with "great caution" in imposing incentive per diem rates, and to statements of both Commission personnel and Members of Congress as to the necessity for a "hearing" before Commission action. Certainly, the lapse of time of more than three years between the enactment of the 1966 amendment and the Commission's issuance of its tentative [410 U.S. 224, 240] conclusions cannot be said to evidence any lack of caution on the part of that body. Nor do generalized references to the necessity for a hearing advance our inquiry, since the statute by its terms requires a "hearing"; the more precise inquiry of whether the hearing requirements necessarily include submission of oral testimony, cross-examination, or oral arguments is not resolved by such comments as these.
Under these circumstances, confronted with a grant of substantive authority made after the Administrative Procedure Act was enacted, 8 we think that reference to that Act, in which Congress devoted itself exclusively to questions such as the nature and scope of hearings, is a satisfactory basis for determining what is meant by the term "hearing" used in another statute. Turning to that Act, we are convinced that the term "hearing" as used therein does not necessarily embrace either the right to present evidence orally and to cross-examine opposing witnesses, or the right to present oral argument to the agency's decisionmaker.
Section 553 excepts from its requirements rulemaking devoted to "interpretative rules, general statements of policy, or rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice," and rulemaking "when the agency for good cause finds . . . that notice and public procedure thereon are impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest." This exception does not apply, however, "when notice or hearing is required by statute"; in those cases, even though interpretative rulemaking be involved, the requirements of 553 apply. But since these requirements [410 U.S. 224, 241] themselves do not mandate any oral presentation, see Allegheny-Ludlum, supra, it cannot be doubted that a statute that requires a "hearing" prior to rulemaking may in some circumstances be satisfied by procedures that meet only the standards of 553. The Court's opinion in FPC v. Texaco Inc., 377 U.S. 33 (1964), supports such a broad definition of the term "hearing."
Similarly, even where the statute requires that the rulemaking procedure take place "on the record after opportunity for an agency hearing," thus triggering the applicability of 556, subsection (d) provides that the agency may proceed by the submission of all or part of the evidence in written form if a party will not be "prejudiced thereby." Again, the Act makes it plain that a specific statutory mandate that the proceedings take place on the record after hearing may be satisfied in some circumstances by evidentiary submission in written form only.
We think this treatment of the term "hearing" in the Administrative Procedure Act affords a sufficient basis for concluding that the requirement of a "hearing" contained in 1 (14) (a), in a situation where the Commission was acting under the 1966 statutory rulemaking authority that Congress had conferred upon it, did not by its own force require the Commission either to hear oral testimony, to permit cross-examination of Commission witnesses, or to hear oral argument. Here, the Commission promulgated a tentative draft of an order, and accorded all interested parties 60 days in which to file statements of position, submissions of evidence, and other relevant observations. The parties had fair notice of exactly what the Commission proposed to do, and were given an opportunity to comment, to object, or to make some other form of written submission. The final order of the Commission indicates that it gave consideration to the statements of the two appellees here. [410 U.S. 224, 242] Given the "open-ended" nature of the proceedings, and the Commission's announced willingness to consider proposals for modification after operating experience had been acquired, we think the hearing requirement of 1 (14) (a) of the Act was met.
Appellee railroads cite a number of our previous decisions dealing in some manner with the right to a hearing in an administrative proceeding. Although appellees have asserted no claim of constitutional deprivation in this proceeding, some of the cases they rely upon expressly speak in constitutional terms, while others are less than clear as to whether they depend upon the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, or upon generalized principles of administrative law formulated prior to the adoption of the Administrative Procedure Act.
Morgan v. United States, 304 U.S. 1 (1938), is cited in support of appellees' contention that the Commission's proceedings were fatally deficient. That opinion describes the proceedings there involved as "quasi-judicial," id., at 14, and thus presumably distinct from a rulemaking proceeding such as that engaged in by the Commission here. But since the order of the Secretary of Agriculture there challenged did involve a form of ratemaking, the case bears enough resemblance to the facts of this case to warrant further examination of appellees' contention. The administrative procedure in Morgan was held to be defective primarily because the persons who were to be affected by the Secretary's order were found not to have been adequately apprised of what the Secretary proposed to do prior to the time that he actually did it. Illustrative of the Court's reasoning is the following passage from the opinion:
Assuming, arguendo, that the statutory term "full hearing" does not differ significantly from the hearing requirement of 1 (14) (a), we do not believe that the proceedings of the Interstate Commerce Commission before us suffer from the defect found to be fatal in Morgan. Though the initial notice of the proceeding by no means set out in detail what the Commission proposed to do, its tentative conclusions and order of December 1969, could scarcely have been more explicit or detailed. All interested parties were given 60 days following the issuance of these tentative findings and order in which to make appropriate objections. Appellees were "fairly advised" of exactly what the Commission proposed to do sufficiently in advance of the entry of the final order to give them adequate time to [410 U.S. 224, 244] formulate and to present objections to the Commission's proposal. Morgan, therefore, does not aid appellees.
ICC v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 227 U.S. 88 (1913), involved what the Court there described as a "quasi-judicial" proceeding of a quite different nature from the one we review here. The provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act, 24 Stat. 379, as amended, and of the Hepburn Act, 34 Stat. 584, in effect at the time that case was decided, left to the railroad carriers the "primary right to make rates," 227 U.S., at 92 , but granted to the Commission the authority to set them aside, if after hearing, they were shown to be unreasonable. The proceeding before the Commission in that case had been instituted by the New Orleans Board of Trade complaint that certain class and commodity rates charged by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad from New Orleans to other points were unfair, unreasonable, and discriminatory. 227 U.S., at 90 . The type of proceeding there, in which the Commission adjudicated a complaint by a shipper that specified rates set by a carrier were unreasonable, was sufficiently different from the nationwide incentive payments ordered to be made by all railroads in this proceeding so as to make the Louisville & Nashville opinion inapplicable in the case presently before us.
The basic distinction between rulemaking and adjudication is illustrated by this Court's treatment of two related cases under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Londoner v. Denver, cited in oral argument by appellees, 210 U.S. 373 (1908), the Court held that due process had not been accorded a landowner who objected to the amount assessed against his land as its share of the benefit resulting from the paving of a street. Local procedure had accorded him the right to file a written complaint and objection, but not to be heard orally. This Court held that due process [410 U.S. 224, 245] of law required that he "have the right to support his allegations by argument however brief, and, if need be, by proof, however informal." Id., at 386. But in the later case of Bi-Metallic Investment Co. v. State Board of Equalization, 239 U.S. 441 (1915), the Court held that no hearing at all was constitutionally required prior to a decision by state tax officers in Colorado to increase the valuation of all taxable property in Denver by a substantial percentage. The Court distinguished Londoner by stating that there a small number of persons "were exceptionally affected, in each case upon individual grounds." Id., at 446.
Later decisions have continued to observe the distinction adverted to in Bi-Metallic Investment Co., supra. In Ohio Bell Telephone Co. v. Public Utilities Comm'n, 301 U.S. 292, 304 -305 (1937), the Court noted the fact that the administrative proceeding there involved was designed to require the utility to refund previously collected rate charges. The Court held that in such a proceeding the agency could not, consistently with due process, act on the basis of undisclosed evidence that was never made a part of the record before the agency. The case is thus more akin to Louisville & Nashville R. Co., supra, than it is to this case. FCC v. WJR, 337 U.S. 265 (1949), established that there was no across-the-board constitutional right to oral argument in every administrative proceeding regardless of its nature. While the line dividing them may not always be a bright one, these decisions represent a recognized distinction in administrative law between proceedings for the purpose of promulgating policy-type rules or standards, on the one hand, and proceedings designed to adjudicate disputed facts in particular cases on the other.
Here, the incentive payments proposed by the Commission in its tentative order, and later adopted in its [410 U.S. 224, 246] final order, were applicable across the board to all of the common carriers by railroad subject to the Interstate Commerce Act. No effort was made to single out any particular railroad for special consideration based on its own peculiar circumstances. Indeed, one of the objections of appellee Florida East Coast was that it and other terminating carriers should have been treated differently from the generality of the railroads. But the fact that the order may in its effects have been thought more disadvantageous by some railroads than by others does not change its generalized nature. Though the Commission obviously relied on factual inferences as a basis for its order, the source of these factual inferences was apparent to anyone who read the order of December 1969. The factual inferences were used in the formulation of a basically legislative-type judgment, for prospective application only, rather than in adjudicating a particular set of disputed facts.
The Commission's procedure satisfied both the provisions of 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act and of the Administrative Procedure Act, and were not inconsistent with prior decisions of this Court. We, therefore, reverse the judgment of the District Court, and remand the case so that it may consider those contentions of the parties that are not disposed of by this opinion.
[ Footnote 2 ] " 553. Rule making.
[ Footnote 3 ] " 556. Hearings; presiding employees; powers and duties; burden of proof; evidence; record as basis of decision.
[ Footnote 4 ] " 557. Initial decisions; conclusiveness; review by agency; submissions by parties; contents of decisions; record.
[ Footnote 5 ] The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reached a result similar to that which we reach, in Pacific Coast European Conference v. United States, 350 F.2d 197 (1965). Construing the authority of the Federal Maritime Commission under 14b of the Shipping Act, 1916, as amended, 46 U.S.C. 813a, that court observed that "[t]he authority of the Commission to permit such contracts was limited by requiring that the contracts in eight specified respects meet the congressional judgment as to what they should include." 350 F.2d, at 201. Notwithstanding [410 U.S. 224, 236] these explicit directions that particular factors be considered by the Commission in reaching its decision, the court held that the statute's requirements of "notice and hearing" were not sufficient to bring into play the provisions of 556 and 557 of the Administrative Procedure Act.
[ Footnote 6 ] Both district court opinions were handed down before our decision in United States v. Allegheny-Ludlum Steel Corp., 406 U.S. 742 (1972), and it appears from the record before us that the Government in those courts did not really contest the proposition that the Commission's proceedings were governed by the stricter standards of 556 and 557.
The dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS relies in part on indications by the Commission that it proposed to apply the more stringent standards of 556 and 557 of the Administrative Procedure Act to these proceedings. This Act is not legislation that the Interstate Commerce Commission, or any other single agency, has primary responsibility for administering. An agency interpretation involving, at least in part, the provisions of that Act does not carry the weight, in ascertaining the intent of Congress, that an interpretation by an agency "charged with the responsibility" of administering a particular statute does. See United States v. American Trucking Assns., 310 U.S. 534 (1940); Norwegian Nitrogen Products Co. v. United States, 288 U.S. 294 (1933). Moreover, since any agency is free under the Act to accord litigants appearing before it more procedural rights than the Act requires, the fact that an agency may choose to proceed under 556 and 557 does not carry the necessary implication that the agency felt it was required to do so.
[ Footnote 7 ] See 1 K. Davis, Administrative Law Treatise, 6.05 (1958).
[ Footnote 8 ] The Interstate Commerce Act was amended in May 1966; the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act was repealed by Act of Sept. 6, 1966, 80 Stat. 378, which revised, codified, and enacted Title 5 of the United States Code, but the section detailing the procedures to be used in rulemaking is substantially similar to the original provision in the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act. See 4 (b), 60 Stat. 238.
[ Footnote 9 ] This same language was cited with approval by the Court in Willner v. Committee on Character, 373 U.S. 96, 105 (1963), in which it was held that an applicant for admission to the bar could not be denied such admission on the basis of ex parte statements of others whom he had not been afforded an opportunity to cross-examine.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE STEWART concurs, dissenting.
The present decision makes a sharp break with traditional concepts of procedural due process. The Commission order under attack is tantamount to a rate order. Charges are fixed that nonowning railroads must pay [410 U.S. 224, 247] owning railroads for boxcars of the latter that are on the tracks of the former. These charges are effective only during the months of September through February, the period of greatest boxcar use. For example, the charge for a boxcar that costs from $15,000 to $17,000 and that is five years of age or younger amounts to $5.19 a day. Boxcars costing between $39,000 and $41,000 and that are five years of age or younger cost the non-owning railroad $12.98 a day. The fees or rates charged decrease as the ages of the boxcars lengthen. 49 CFR 1036.2. This is the imposition on carriers by administrative fiat of a new financial liability. I do not believe it is within our traditional concepts of due process to allow an administrative agency to saddle anyone with a new rate, charge, or fee without a full hearing that includes the right to present oral testimony, cross-examine witnesses, and present oral argument. That is required by the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 556 (d); 556 (a) states that 556 applies to hearings required by 553. Section 553 (c) provides that 556 applies "[w]hen rules are required by statute to be made on the record after opportunity for an agency hearing." A hearing under 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act fixing rates, charges, or fees is certainly adjudicatory, not legislative in the customary sense.
The question is whether the Interstate Commerce Commission procedures used in this rate case "for the submission of . . . evidence in written form" avoided prejudice to the appellees so as to comport with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. 1 The Government appeals from the District Court's order [410 U.S. 224, 248] remanding this case to the Commission for further proceedings on the incentive per diem rates to be paid by the appellee railroads for the standard boxcars they use.
In 1966, Congress amended 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act to require that the Commission investigate the use of methods of incentive compensation to alleviate any shortage of freight cars "and encourage the acquisition and maintenance of a car supply adequate to meet the needs of commerce and the national defense." 49 U.S.C. 1 (14) (a). While the Commission was given the discretion to exempt carriers from incentive payments "in the national interest," it was denied the power to "make any incentive element applicable to any type of freight car the supply of which the Commission finds to be adequate . . . ." Ibid.
The Commission's initial investigation under this authority (31 Fed. Reg. 9240) was terminated without action because it "produced no reliable information respecting the quantum of interim incentive charge necessary to meet the statutory standards." 332 I. C. C. 11, 16. A subsequent study of boxcar supply-and-demand conditions (32 Fed. Reg. 20987) yielded data that were compiled in an interim report containing tentative charges and that were submitted to the railroads for comment. 337 I. C. C. 183. Although the Commission was admittedly uncertain whether its proposed charges would accomplish the statutory objective, id., at 191, and even though "the opportunity to present evidence and arguments" was contemplated, id., at 183, congressional impatience militated against further delay in implementing 1 (14) (a). 2 Consequently, the Commission rejected the requests of the appellees and other railroads for further hearings and promulgated an incentive [410 U.S. 224, 249] per diem rate schedule for standard boxcars. 337 I. C. C. 217.
Appellees then brought this action in the District Court alleging that they were "prejudiced" within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act by the Commission's failure to afford them a proper hearing. 322 F. Supp. 725 (MD Fla. 1971). Seaboard argued that it had been damaged by what it alleged to be the Commission's sudden change in emphasis from specialty to unequipped boxcars and that it would lose some $1.8 million as the result of the Commission's allegedly hasty and experimental action. Florida East Coast raised significant challenges to the statistical validity of the Commission's data, 3 and also contended that its status as a terminating railroad left it with a surfeit of standard boxcars which should exempt it from the requirement to pay incentive charges.
Appellees, in other words, argue that the inadequacy of the supply of standard boxcars was not sufficiently established by the Commission's procedures. Seaboard contends that specialty freight cars have supplanted standard boxcars and Florida East Coast challenges the accuracy of the Commission's findings.
In its interim report, the commission indicated that there would be an opportunity to present evidence and arguments. See 337 I. C. C. 183, 187. The appellees could reasonably have expected that the later hearings would give them the opportunity to substantiate and elaborate the criticisms they set forth in their [410 U.S. 224, 250] initial objections to the interim report. That alone would not necessarily support the claim of "prejudice." But I believe that "prejudice" was shown when it was claimed that the very basis on which the Commission rested its finding was vulnerable because it lacked statistical validity or other reasoned basis. At least in that narrow group of cases, prejudice for lack of a proper hearing has been shown.
Both Long Island R. Co. v. United States, 318 F. Supp. 490 (EDNY 1970), and the present case involve challenges to the Commission's procedures establishing incentive per diem rates. In Long Island, however, the railroad pointed to no specific challenges to the Commission's findings (id., at 499), and the trial was conducted on stipulated issues involving the right to an oral hearing. Id., at 491 n. 2. Since Long Island presented no information which might have caused the Commission to reach a different result, 4 there was no showing of prejudice, and a fortiori no right to an oral hearing. In the [410 U.S. 224, 251] present case, by contrast, there are specific factual disputes and the issue is the narrow one of whether written submission of evidence without oral argument was prejudicial.
The more exacting hearing provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 556-557, are only applicable, of course, if the "rules are required by statute to be made on the record after opportunity for an agency hearing." Id., 553 (c).
United States v. Allegheny-Ludlum Steel Corp., 406 U.S. 742 , was concerned strictly with a rulemaking proceeding of the Commission for the promulgation of "car service rules" that in general required freight cars, after being unloaded, to be returned "in the direction of the lines of the road owning the cars." Id., at 743. We sustained the Commission's power with respect to these two rules on the narrow ground that they were wholly legislative. We held that 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act, requiring by its terms a "hearing," "does not require that such rules `be made on the record'" within the meaning of 553 (c). Id., at 757. We recognized, however, that the precise words "on the record" are not talismanic, but that the crucial question is whether the proceedings under review are "an exercise of legislative rulemaking" or "adjudicatory hearings." Ibid. The "hearing" requirement of 1 (14) (a) cannot be given a fixed and immutable meaning to be applied in each and every case without regard to the nature of the proceedings.
The rules in question here established "incentive" per diem charges to spur the prompt return of existing cars and to make the acquisition of new cars financially attractive to the railroads. 5 Unlike those we considered in [410 U.S. 224, 252] Allegheny-Ludlum, these rules involve the creation of a new financial liability. Although quasi-legislative, they are also adjudicatory in the sense that they determine the measure of the financial responsibility of one road for its use of the rolling stock of another road. The Commission's power to promulgate these rules pursuant to 1 (14) (a) is conditioned on the preliminary finding that the supply of freight cars to which the rules apply is inadequate. Moreover, in fixing incentive compensation once this threshold finding has been made, the Commission "shall give consideration to the national level of ownership of such type of freight car and to other factors affecting the adequacy of the national freight car supply . . . ." 6 [410 U.S. 224, 253]
The majority finds ICC v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 227 U.S. 88 , "sufficiently different" as to make the opinion in that case inapplicable to the case now before us. I would read the case differently, finding a clear mandate that where, as here, ratemaking must be [410 U.S. 224, 254] based on evidential facts, 1 (14) (a) requires that full hearing which due process normally entails. There we considered Commission procedures for setting aside as unreasonable, after a hearing, carrier-made rates. The Government maintained that the Commission, invested with legislative ratemaking power, but required by the Commerce Act to obtain necessary information, could act on such information as the Congress might. The Government urged that we presume that the Commission's findings were supported by such information, "even though not formally proved at the hearing." Id., at 93. We rejected the contention, holding that the right to a hearing included "an opportunity to test, explain, or refute. . . . All parties must be fully apprised of the evidence submitted or to be considered, and must be given opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, to inspect documents and to offer evidence in explanation or rebuttal." Ibid. I would agree with the District Court in Long Island R. Co., supra, at 497, that Congress was fully cognizant of our decision in Louisville & Nashville R. Co. when it first adopted the hearing requirement of 1 (14) (a) in 1917. And when Congress debated the 1966 amendment that empowered the Commission to adopt incentive per diem rates, it had not lost sight of the importance of hearings. Questioned about the effect that incentive compensation might have on terminating lines, Mr. Staggers, Chairman of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce and floor manager of the bill, responded: "I might say to the gentleman that this will not be put into practice until there have been full hearings before the Commission and all sides have had an opportunity to argue and present their facts on the question." 112 Cong. Rec. 10443 (emphasis added). Nor should we overlook the Commission's own interpretation of the hearing requirement in 1 (14) (a) as it applies to this case. The Commission's order initiating [410 U.S. 224, 255] the rulemaking proceeding notified the parties that it was acting "under authority of Part I of the Interstate Commerce Act (49 U.S.C. 1, et seq.); more particularly, section 1 (14) (a) and the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553, 556, and 557)." Clearly, the Commission believed that it was required to hold a hearing on the record. 7 This interpretation, not of the Administrative Procedure Act, but of 1 (14) (a) of the Commission's own Act, is "entitled to great weight." United States v. American Trucking Assns., 310 U.S. 534, 549 ; Norwegian Nitrogen Products Co. v. United States, 288 U.S. 294, 315 .
The majority, at one point, distinguishes Morgan v. United States, 304 U.S. 1 (Morgan II), on the ground that the proceedings there involved were "quasi-judicial," "and thus presumably distinct from a rulemaking proceeding such as that engaged in by the Commission here." It is this easy categorization and pigeonholing that leads the majority to find Allegheny-Ludlum of controlling significance in this case. Morgan II dealt with the "full hearing" requirement of 310 of the Packers and Stockyards Act, 42 Stat. 166, as it related to rate-making for the purchase and sale of livestock. 8 It is true that the Court characterized the proceedings as "quasi-judicial." [410 U.S. 224, 256] But, the first time the case was before the Court, Morgan v. United States, 298 U.S. 468 , Mr. Chief Justice Hughes noted that the "distinctive character" of the proceeding was legislative: "It is a proceeding looking to legislative action in the fixing of rates of market agencies." Id., at 479. Nevertheless, the Secretary of Agriculture was required to establish rates in accordance with the standards and under the limitations prescribed by Congress. The Court concluded: "A proceeding of this sort requiring the taking and weighing of evidence, determinations of fact based upon the consideration of the evidence, and the making of an order supported by such findings, has a quality resembling that of a judicial proceeding. Hence it is frequently described as a proceeding of quasi-judicial character. The requirement of a `full hearing' has obvious reference to the tradition of judicial proceedings . . . ." Id., at 480.
Section 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act bestows upon the Commission broad discretionary power to determine incentive rates. These rates may have devastating effects on a particular line. According to the brief of one of the appellees, the amount of incentive compensation paid by debtor lines amounts to millions of dollars each six-month period. Nevertheless, the courts must defer to the Commission as long as its findings are supported by substantial evidence and it has not abused its discretion. "All the more insistent is the need, when power has been bestowed so freely, that the `inexorable safeguard' . . . of a fair and open hearing be maintained in its integrity." Ohio Bell Telephone Co. v. Public Utilities Comm'n, 301 U.S. 292, 304 .
Accordingly, I would hold that appellees were not afforded the hearing guaranteed by 1 (14) (a) of the Interstate Commerce Act and 5 U.S.C. 553, 556, and 557, and would affirm the decision of the District Court.
[ Footnote 1 ] 5 U.S.C. 556 (d) provides that a "sanction may not be imposed" without a full hearing, including cross-examination. But 556 (d) makes an exception, which I submit is not relevant here. It provides: "In rule making . . . an agency may, when a party will not be prejudiced thereby, adopt procedures for the submission of all or part of the evidence in written form." (Emphasis added.)
[ Footnote 2 ] See Hearing before the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation of the Senate Committee on Commerce, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. (1969).
[ Footnote 3 ] Florida East Coast argues, for example, that the Commission's finding of a boxcar shortage may be attributable to a variety of sampling or definitional errors, asserting that it is unrealistic to define boxcar deficiencies in such a manner as "to show as a `deficiency' the failure to supply a car on the day requested by the shipper no matter when the request was received." The Government's contention that a 24-hour standard was not used seems unresponsive to this argument. See 337 I. C. C. 217, 221.
[ Footnote 4 ] In the Long Island case the court, speaking through Judge Friendly, said:
[ Footnote 5 ] Title 49 CFR 1036.1 provides:
[ Footnote 6 ] The Commission discusses the critical factual issues to be resolved in fixing incentive compensation rates under 1 (14) (a) in Incentive Per Diem Charges, 332 I. C. C. 11, 14-15:
[ Footnote 7 ] In its final report, the Commission apparently still believed that its proceedings had to comply with the provisions of 556 of the Administrative Procedure Act. The report stated that the parties had been granted a hearing in accordance with those provisions. 337 I. C. C., at 219.
[ Footnote 8 ] Morgan II considered in some depth the parameters of a "full hearing." The majority takes the position that the case is inapposite because the hearings provided in this case do not "suffer from the defect found to be fatal in Morgan" - i. e., the parties were "fairly advised" of the scope and substance of the Commission proceedings. In Morgan II, however, there was no question that a "full hearing" included the right to present oral testimony and argument. 304 U.S. 1, 18 -20. [410 U.S. 224, 257]