Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. United States - 189 U.S. 274 (1903)
U.S. Supreme Court
Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. United States, 189 U.S. 274 (1903)
Missouri Pacific Railway Company v. United States
Argued January 23, 26, 1903
Decided March 9, 1903
189 U.S. 274
Prior to the passage of the Act of Congress "to further regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the states," approved February 19, 1903, a District Attorney of the United States, under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States given in pursuance of a request made by the Interstate Commerce Commission, was without power to commence a proceeding in equity against a railroad corporation to restrain it from
discriminating in its rates between different localities. Held, therefore, that there was error committed below in refusing to sustain a demurrer of a defendant railroad company to a bill filed by a District Attorney of the United States under the circumstances stated.
As, however, the Act of February 19, 1903, expressly conferred the power which did not theretofore exist, and as that act specifically provided that the new remedies which it created should be applicable to all causes then pending, held that, although the action of the lower court in refusing to sustain the demurrer would be overruled, the case would not be finally disposed of, but would be remanded for further proceedings in consonance with the provisions of the Act of February 19, 1903.
The original bill of complaint in this cause was filed on behalf of the United States against the present appellant in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Second Division of the District of Kansas on July 26, 1893. To the bill, a demurrer was filed and overruled. 65 F. 903. Subsequently, exceptions were sustained to an answer, and thereafter an amended answer and a replication were filed. The questions now presented for decision, however, were raised by an amended bill filed on July 19, 1897. In such amended bill, it was alleged that the suit was brought on behalf of the United States by the United States Attorney for the District of Kansas, by the authority of and under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States, and that such authority and direction had been given in pursuance of a request of the Interstate Commerce Commission of the United States
"that the United States Attorney for the District of Kansas be authorized and directed to institute and prosecute all necessary proceedings, legal or equitable, for the enforcement of the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Law against the defendant in relation to the matters herein complained of."
It was further averred, in substance, that the respondent was subject to the terms and provisions of the Act to Regulate Commerce, and operated lines of railway between the City of St. Louis, in the State of Missouri, and the City of Omaha, in the State of Nebraska, a distance of 501 miles, and between the City of St. Louis and the City of Wichita, in the State of Kansas, a distance of 458 miles. It was charged that, in the transportation of freight between St. Louis and said Cities of Omaha and Wichita, the service was
substantially of a like, contemporaneous character, and was made under substantially similar circumstances and conditions, but that, notwithstanding such fact, the rates exacted upon shipments of freight between St. Louis and Wichita very much exceeded the rates charged on freight shipped between St. Louis and Omaha. It was averred that the collection of such alleged excessive freight rates or any rate of freight on shipments between St. Louis and Wichita in excess of the rate charged for shipments of freight of a similar character and classification between St. Louis and Omaha, operated an unjust and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage against the City of Wichita and the localities tributary thereto, and against the shippers of freight between St. Louis and the City of Wichita. Averring that the wrongs complained of "are remediless in the premises under the ordinary forms and proceedings at law, and are relievable only in a court of equity and in this form of procedure," the ultimate relief asked was the grant of a perpetual injunction restraining the respondent from continuing to exact a greater rate for transportation of freight of like classification between the City of Wichita and the City of St. Louis than was asked between the City of St. Louis and the City of Omaha. A demurrer was filed to the amended bill upon various grounds, one of which denied the right of the United States to institute the suit.
On hearing, the demurrer was overruled, exception was reserved, and, the defendant electing to stand on its demurrer, a final decree was entered granting a perpetual injunction as prayed, and, on appeal, the circuit court of appeals affirmed the decree, but filed no opinion. An appeal was thereupon allowed.