East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railway Company v. Interstate Commerce Commission
The Board of Trade of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a chartered corporation, petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission for relief under the Act to Regulate Commerce. The defendants, the East Tennessee, Virginia, & Georgia Railway, and numerous other rail and steamship companies, were alleged to be common carriers subject to the Act to Regulate Commerce, and engaged in the transportation of passengers and freight by all rail, or partly by rail and water, from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other places on the eastern seaboard to Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis, in the state of Tennessee.
It was alleged that the defendants conveyed freight from the eastern seaboard, through and beyond Chattanooga, to the cities of Nashville and Memphis for a lesser rate to such long-distance points than was charged by them for like freight to Chattanooga, the shorter distance. This, it was averred, was a violation of § 4 of the act, prohibiting a greater charge for the shorter than for the longer haul, under substantially similar circumstances and conditions. And the disregard of the statute in the particular just stated, it was asserted, necessarily gave rise to violations of other provisions of the Act to Regulate Commerce; viz., of § 1, which forbids unjust and unreasonable charges, and of § 3, making unlawful the giving of undue or unreasonable preferences.
It is unnecessary to consider the complaint of the lesser charge to Memphis, the longer, than to Chattanooga, the shorter, distance, since this grievance was in effect held by the Commission to be without substantial merit; and its conclusion on this subject was not reviewed by either of the courts below, and it is not now seriously, if at all, questioned. After hearing, the Commission made elaborate findings of fact, and stated the legal conclusions which were deduced therefrom. 5 I. C. C. Rep. 546, 4 Inters. Com. Rep. 213. An order was made forbidding the defendant carriers from charging a greater compensation for the transportation for the shorter distance to Chattanooga than was demanded to Nashville, the longer distance. The execution, however, of this order, was suspended until a date named, so that the carriers might have opportunity to apply to the Commission to be relieved from the operation of the order. No application to be exempted having been made, and the carriers not having conformed to the behests of the Commission, this proceeding to compel obedience was commenced in the circuit court. In that court additional testimony was taken, but it was all merely cumulative of that which had been adduced before the Commission. The circuit court (85 Fed. Rep. 107), whilst not approving the reasoning by which the Commission had sustained the order by it entered, nevertheless on other grounds affirmed the command of the Commission. The circuit court of appeals for the sixth circuit, to which the case was taken, whilst it held that the Commission had misapplied the law, and although it did not approve of the reasoning given by the circuit court for its decree, nevertheless affirmed the action of that court. 39 C. C. A. 413, 99 Fed. Rep. 52.
Mr. Ed. Baxter for appellants.
Messrs. L. A. Shaver and James E. Boyd for appellee.
Mr. Justice White, after making the foregoing statement of the case, delivered the opinion of the court: