Canada Packers Limited v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company/Opinion of the Court
|Canada Packers Limited v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company
Opinion of the Court
United States Supreme Court
CANADA PACKERS LIMITED v. ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY
Argued: Nov. 8 and 9, 1966. --- Decided: Dec 5, 1966
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 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, 86 S.Ct. 880, 15 L.Ed.2d 661.
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, 48 S.Ct. 39, 72 L.Ed. 225, squarely held that where a carrier performing 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, 51 S.Ct. 592, 75 L.Ed. 1333, and Great Northern R. Co. v. Sullivan, 294 U.S. 458, 55 S.Ct. 472, 79 L.Ed. 992, 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 consider 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 reversed.
Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).|