United States v. L. A. Tucker Truck Lines/Dissent Frankfurter

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United States Supreme Court

344 U.S. 33

United States  v.  L. A. Tucker Truck Lines

 Argued: Oct. 20, 1952. --- Decided: Nov 10, 1952

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER, dissenting.

Were we dispensing what is complacently called oriental justice, according to which the merits of the individual case alone, so one is told, determine the result, I would join my brethren in reversing this judgment. For I see no reason to disagree with the Court's view that in this case non-compliance by the Interstate Commerce Commission with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act did not prejudice the appellee. Nor do I deny that some rights personal to a party may be waived, either explicitly or by failure to assert them.

But I find no explicit waiver here, nor is it clear to me how the appellee can be charged with knowledge of the official status of the examiner on the basis of whose report the Commission took action adverse to it. In any event, the requirement of the Administrative Procedure Act that proceedings which lead to an administrative adjudication must be conducted by an independent hearing examiner is not something personal to a party. It is a requirement designed to assure confidence in the administrative process by defining and limiting the various organs through which that process is allowed to function.

I do not use the term 'jurisdiction' because it is a verbal coat of too many colors. But we are dealing with legislation which sought to remedy what were believed to be evils in the way in which administrative agencies exercised their authority prior to the enactment of the Administrative Procedure Act of June 11, 1946. That Act accordingly prohibited the commingling of the conflicting functions exercised by these agencies. I do say, therefore, that it created unwaivable limitations upon the power of these agencies, as much so as do the definitions in judiciary acts of the different categories of cases which different courts are empowered to hear and decide. The limitations upon the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission to act, imposed by the command that it must do so only in accordance with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, are thus not within the dispensing power of any litigant. They bind and confine the Commission itself.

I cannot otherwise read what we decided in Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath, 339 U.S. 33, 70 S.Ct. 445, 94 L.Ed. 616, and Riss & Co., Inc. v. United States, 341 U.S. 907, 71 S.Ct. 620, 95 L.Ed. 1345. I do not rest my conclusion on any assumption of jurisdiction sub silentio in the Wong Yang Sung case. What I am resting on is the significance we attached to the requirement of independent hearing examiners as inherent in the process of administrative adjudication.

After we decided Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath, supra, Congress was promptly asked to relieve the deportation process of this requirement and it did so. See Chapter III of The Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1951, Act of September 27, 1950, Pub.L. No. 843, 8 U.S.C.A. § 155a. After we made the same ruling as to the Interstate Commerce Commission, Congress was promptly asked to validate proceedings previously conducted by the Commission in disregard of the requirements for independent hearing examiners. Congress has chosen not to enact such remedial legislation. [1] I do not construe this want of action as controlling upon the issue before us. I refer to this subsequent legislative history merely as an indication of the path by which undesirable consequences flowing from our decision in Riss & Co., Inc. v. United States, supra, may be corrected without injustice. Situations like this arise from time to time when decisions of this Court in the observance of law suggest corrective legislation. See e.g., United States v. Heinszen & Co., 206 U.S. 370, 27 S.Ct. 742, 51 L.Ed. 1098.


^1  A remedial bill was successful in the House but failed in the Senate. The bill was H.R. 5045. See H.R.Rep.No.1637, 82d Cong., 2d Sess.

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).