Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. Nebraska
164 U.S. 403 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. Nebraska, 164 U.S. 403 (1896)

Missouri Pacific Railway Company v. Nebraska

No. 1

Argued March 4, 1896

Decided November 30, 1896

164 U.S. 403

Syllabus

The taking by a the private property of one person or corporation, without the owner's consent, for the private use of another, is not due process of law, and is a violation of the Fourteenth Article of Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

A statute of a state by which, as construed by the supreme court of the state, a Board of Transportation is authorized to require a railroad corporation which has permitted the erection of two elevators by private persons on its right of way at a station to grant upon like terms and conditions a location upon that right of way to other private persons in the neighborhood for the purpose of erecting thereon a third elevator in which to store their grain from time to time is a taking of private property of the railroad corporation for a private use, in violation of the Fourteenth Article of Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

This was a writ of error to review a judgment of the Supreme Court, of the Nebraska, awarding a writ of mandamus to compel the Missouri Pacific Railway Company, a corporation of Nebraska, to comply with an order of the Nebraska State Board of Transportation which directed the company to grant to John W. Hollenbeck and others the right and privilege of erecting an elevator upon the grounds of the railway company at its station at Elmwood.

By the Constitution of Nebraska of 1575, art. 11, sec. 4,

"Railways heretofore constructed or that may hereafter be

Page 164 U. S. 404

constructed in this State are hereby declared public highways, and shall be free to all persons for the transportation of their persons and property thereon, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law. And the legislature may from time to time pass laws establishing reasonable maximum rates of charges for the transportation of passengers and freight on the different railroads in this State."

And by sec. 7,

"The legislature shall pass laws to correct abuses and prevent unjust discrimination and extortion in all charges of express, telegraph and railroad companies in this state, and enforce such laws by adequate penalties to the extent, if necessary for that. purpose, of forfeiture of their property and franchises."

The State Board of Transportation was created by the Statute of Nebraska of March 31, 1887, c. 60, entitled "An act to regulate railroads, prevent unjust discrimination," etc., which took effect July 1, 1887, and was very similar to the Act of Congress of February 4, 1887, c.104, regulating interstate commerce (24 Stat. 379), except in applying only to commerce within the state. The material provisions of the Nebraska statute are copied in the margin. *

Page 164 U. S. 405

On October 9, 1889, there was presented to the Nebraska State Board of Transportation a complaint in these terms:

"The petition and complaint of John W. Hollenbeck, Cyrelius Lemasters, John W. Miller, John Hayes, Charles Hall and others, trading under the name of the Elmwood Farmers' Alliance Number 365, of Elmwood, Cass County, Nebraska, respectfully represents: "

Page 164 U. S. 406

"First. That the petitioners and complainants are now and have for many years been extensive raisers of corn, wheat, oats and other cereals, and that large quantities of said cereals

Page 164 U. S. 407

have been marketed in seasons past, and that large quantities are now ready for the markets; that the several farms and leaseholds of the petitioners are situated near Elmwood, in Cass County, Nebraska."

"Second. That the Missouri Pacific Railway Company is a common carrier, engaged in the transportation of passengers and property by railroad under a common control, management, or arrangement for a continuous carriage or shipment through Elmwood aforesaid."

"Third. That the said defendant railroad company is the owner of the right of way and depot grounds bordering the main and side tracks of the defendant company, upon which are located the stationhouses and other shipping facilities connected with the transportation originating at or destined to Elmwood station aforesaid; that the complainants aforesaid did make a written application to the general manager of the defendant company for a location, on the right of way at Elmwood station aforesaid, for the erection of an elevator of sufficient capacity to store from time to time the cereal products of the farm and leaseholds of complainants aforesaid, as well as the products of other neighboring farms; that the application aforesaid was refused by the general manager of the defendant company aforesaid."

"Fourth. That the elevators now located on the right of way of the defendants aforesaid at Elmwood station aforesaid are during certain seasons of the year wholly insufficient in affording a market for the cereals of the complainants and others desirous of marketing their grain."

"Fifth. That the refusal of the defendant railroad company to lease a location for an elevator as aforesaid is in contravention of the provisions of an act of the legislature entitled 'An act to regulate railroads, prevent unjust discrimination,' etc., approved March 31, 1887, in that --"

"(a) The said refusal is an unjust discrimination."

"(b) The said Missouri Pacific Railway Company, by the refusal aforesaid, is subjecting the complainants aforesaid to an undue and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage in respect to traffic facilities over other localities. "

Page 164 U. S. 408

"(c) The said Missouri Pacific Railway Company, by the refusal aforesaid, is giving an undue and unreasonable preference and advantage to Adams and Gilbert, and Eells Brothers, owners of the elevators located at Elmwood, on the right of way of the defendant, by permission of the said Missouri Pacific Railway Company."

"Wherefore the petitioners pray that the defendants may be required to answer the charges herein, and that after due hearing and investigation, an order be made commanding the defendants to cease and desist from said violations of the act of the legislature entitled 'An act to regulate railroads,' etc., and for such other and further relief as the Board of Transportation may deem necessary in the premises."

On the same day, the Board of Transportation issued an order to the railway company to show cause why the prayer of the complaint should not be granted, and on October 19, 1889, the railway company filed an answer, admitting its ownership of the right of way and depot grounds at Elmwood, described in the complaint, and its refusal to allow the petitioners to erect an elevator on the side track there, and that there were two elevators now upon that track, and alleging that those two elevators were sufficient to transact the business at Elmwood, and that there was no room there for another elevator, without purchasing an additional right of way and extending its track, and that this was the only reason for the refusal; and denying all the other allegations of the complaint.

On December 13, 1889, the Board of Transportation, after a hearing, at which evidence and arguments were submitted on behalf of both parties, made the following findings and order:

"This case and complaint having been heard by the board upon the pleadings, evidence and argument of counsel, the board finds as follows:"

"First. That the defendant has all its side tracks within the limits of its right of way and depot grounds at the said station of Elmwood."

"Second. That there are only two elevators at said station

Page 164 U. S. 409

of Elmwood, having the combined capacity of ten thousand bushels, and that said elevators are insufficient to handle the ,grain shipped at said station, and that the owners and operators thereof have entered into a combination, and do combine and fix the prices of grain, and prevent competition in the purchase price thereof, and that there are not sufficient facilities for the handling and shipping of grain at said station."

"Third. That it is necessary for the convenience of the public, patrons and shippers of grain of said railroad company, that another elevator be erected and operated at said station."

"Fourth. That the defendant has permitted two elevators to be erected upon its grounds at said station, and that the same are now being operated, and that the said defendant hall refused to grant the same privilege to the complainant."

"Fifth. That an elevator is necessary for the shipment of grain by railroad, and that, by reason of the side track being placed within the right of way and depot grounds, the plaintiff cannot ship grain without building its elevator upon the grounds of the defendant."

"Sixth. That there is room upon the grounds of the defendant at said station for another elevator without materially interfering with the operation of said railroad, and the building of the elevator by the plaintiffs upon said ground will not materially affect the defendant in the use of its grounds, or be .an unreasonable burden to the defendant."

"Seventh. That granting of the right and privilege by the defendant to the elevators now standing upon its right of way and depot grounds at said station, and refusing to grant the same right and privilege to the complainant, is an unjust and unreasonable discrimination against the complainant, under the circumstances of this case."

"Eighth. That the said respondent has discriminated against the complainant, and that it has unlawfully made and given a preference and advantage to Adams and Gilbert, and to Eells Brothers, owners and operators of elevators at said station."

"It is therefore, by the Board of Transportation of the State of Nebraska, considered, adjudged and ordered that the respondent, the Missouri Pacific Railway Company, shall

Page 164 U. S. 410

cease and discontinue discriminating against the complainant, and grant to said complainant the same facilities and privileges as granted to the owners and operators of the elevators now established at said station; and that said respondent, within ten days after the service of this order, grant, and give to the complainant, on like terms and conditions as granted to the said Adams and Gilbert, and Eells Brothers, the right and privilege of erecting an elevator upon its ground at said station, adjacent to said respondent's side track, at a convenient and suitable place thereon, to-wit, at a point on the side track of said respondent near the east terminus of said side track, or some other suitable and convenient place on said side track, if the parties to this action can agree, and that said respondent grant to the said complainant all and equal facilities for the handling and shipping of grain at said station which it grants and gives to other shippers of grain at said station, and cease from all discrimination or preferences to and of said shippers and operators of elevators at said station of Elmwood aforesaid."

The railway company not having complied with that order, there was presented to the Supreme Court of the State of Nebraska, on January 7, 1890, a petition in the name of the State of Nebraska, at the relation of the Board of Transportation, and signed by the Attorney General of the state, setting forth the proceedings and order of the Board of Transportation, and praying for a writ of mandamus to the railway company to compel them to comply with that order.

To this petition for a mandamus the railway company filed an answer, setting up the same defences as before the Board of Transportation, and relying upon the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which prohibit any state to deprive any person of property without due process of law, or to deny to any person, within its jurisdiction, the equal protection of the laws.

Upon a hearing on this petition and answer, the Supreme Court of Nebraska, on May 13, 1890, "found the issues in favor of the relators," and adjudged that unless the railway company within forty days complied with the order of the

Page 164 U. S. 411

Board of Transportation, a writ of mandamus should issue to compel a compliance with that order according to its terms. 29 Neb. 550. The railway company sued out this writ of error.

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