Mississippi Railroad Comm'n v. Illinois Cent. R. Co.
203 U.S. 335 (1906)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mississippi Railroad Comm'n v. Illinois Cent. R. Co., 203 U.S. 335 (1906)

Mississippi Railroad Commission v.

Illinois Central Railroad Company

No. 64

Argued October 26, 1906

Decided December 3, 1906

203 U.S. 335

Syllabus

Where complainant not only sets up diverse citizenship, but also a constitutional question, he has the right to appeal from the judgment of the circuit court to the circuit court of appeals, and from its decision an appeal or writ of error may be taken to this Court. Field v. Barber Asphalt Co.,194 U. S. 618, distinguished.

A commission created by the law of a state for the purpose of supervising and controlling the acts of railroad companies operating within the state is subject to suit and a suit brought by a company of another state in the

Page 203 U. S. 336

circuit court of the United States against the members of the commission is not a suit against the state within the prohibitions of the Eleventh Amendment.

The Railroad Commission of Mississippi is not, as has been determined by the highest court of the state, a court, but a mere administrative agency of the state, and the prohibitions of § 720, Rev.Stat., against injunctions from United States courts to stay proceedings in state courts are not applicable thereto, and even though the commission might, under the state law, resort to the state courts to aid it in enforcing its orders, the proceeding cannot be regarded as one in the state courts within the meaning of § 720, Rev.Stat. While a state railroad commission may, in the absence of congressional legislation, order a railroad company to stop interstate trains at stations where there is only an incidental interference with interstate commerce based on a legal exercise of the police power of the state exerted to secure proper facilities for the citizens of the state, where the railroad company has -- as in this case -- furnished all proper and reasonable facilities, such an order is an improper and illegal interference with interstate commerce and void as a violation of the commerce clause of the Constitution.

138 F. 327 affirmed.

The Railroad Commission of the State of Mississippi and its members and clerk, as appellants, bring to this Court by appeal the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which court reversed the judgment of the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in favor of the appellants and remanded the case with directions to enter a decree for the complainant, the railroad company.

The case, as it appears in the record, shows the following facts:

The citizens of the Town of Magnolia, which has about 1,200 inhabitants, and is situated in the State of Mississippi on the line of the railroad of the appellee, and about 98 miles north of New Orleans, in April, 1903, presented a petition to the Mississippi Railroad Commission asking that commission to order the railroad company to stop its passenger trains numbers 1, 3, and 4 at the Magnolia station, the ground of the request being, as stated in the petition, that Magnolia was one of the most progressive towns in the state and the county site of the county, and the petitioners believed

Page 203 U. S. 337

that they were entitled to have these trains make regular stops at that point, and they stated their belief that it was for the best interest of the public, as well as the town, to have the passenger trains named make regular stops at the town.

Trains numbers 1 and 3 were south-bound trains from Chicago, passing Magnolia on their way to New Orleans, while train number 4 was a train on its way north to Chicago from New Orleans.

After a hearing before the railroad commission, on notice to the railroad company, the commission made an order granting the application as to trains 1 and 3 and denying it as to number 4.

Before obeying the order, the company brought this suit to enjoin its enforcement. Upon the filing of the bill, a temporary injunction was issued and a subsequent motion to dissolve it was denied. The defendant in the suit, the railroad commission, answered the bill and denied that the railroad company furnished the Town of Magnolia with adequate accommodations for the south, and put in issue the allegations of the bill that the order made by the commission was unreasonable or an illegal interference with the interstate commerce of the railroad company. The case came on for hearing before the circuit court, at the end of which a decree was made denying the relief asked for by the complainant, the court holding that the order of the commission was not unreasonable, and that therefore the temporary injunction should be, and it was, dissolved. An appeal to the circuit court of appeals was prayed for by the railroad company and granted.

The bill stated, amongst other things, that the corporation was created under the laws of the State of Illinois, and that the complainant was a resident of that state, and domiciled in the City of Chicago, and that the railroad commission was created by the State of Mississippi, and its individual members were citizens and residents of that state. The complainant further showed that it was operating an interstate line of railroad, extending from the City of New Orleans, in Louisiana,

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north through that state and the States of Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois to the Great Lakes of the Northwest, connecting at various points with other lines of interstate railroads. It is also averred that the Congress of the United States had established the line of railroad operated by the complainant as a national highway for the accommodation of interstate commerce and the carriage of the mails of the United States, and had been so recognized and promoted as such by various acts of Congress; that, owing to the exigencies of its interstate business and the requirements of modern commerce and passenger transportation, as well as the transportation of freight and the United States mails, the complainant had been, from time to time, required to shorten its schedule, and to maintain and operate certain fast through trains, intended primarily and chiefly for interstate transportation and interstate commerce; that the two trains numbered 1 and 3 -- one being known as the fast mail and the other as the New Orleans & Chicago Limited -- were run expressly for the purpose of carrying the interstate business and for the transportation of the United States mail, and that they were run on special schedules for that purpose, and of necessity had to make close connections with other through trunk lines of railroad doing an interstate business, and, in order to maintain the necessary schedule of time for the operation of these interstate trains, it was impossible and wholly impracticable to stop at all stations, and further, that these trains, being south-bound trains, only stop regularly at junction points and all such points of importance in the State of Mississippi which are necessary and which justify such stops. The bill showed the accommodations which were afforded the Town of Magnolia by the other trains provided by the company, and which it alleged sufficiently accommodated the traveling public at that point; that a compliance with the order of the commission by stopping the trains named would imperil the ability of the complainant to comply with its contract with the United States for the carriage of the mails, and

Page 203 U. S. 339

would embarrass its interstate traffic, and that it would be impossible under the present condition of the roadbed and equipment of the complainant to increase the speed of the trains so as to allow for the stoppage of the trains as directed by the commission; that the complainant protested before the commission against the issuing of the order, and it alleged that it showed that it was then furnishing the Town of Magnolia all reasonable and necessary railroad facilities, and that the effect of the order would be to give that town greater railroad facilities than were afforded by complainant to any other town in the State of Mississippi, including the City of Jackson, the capital of the state, excepting only the Town of McComb City, which, being a relay station on complainant's road, it is necessary for all trains to stop there to change the engine, and for fuel, water, etc.; that the effect of the order also would be to give to the town five daily trains to the City of New Orleans, running within short intervals of each other. It was further alleged that, by the statutory law of the State of Mississippi, the complainant was subject to a penalty of $50 for each time it failed to stop its trains on the order of the commission, and that the complainant would therefore be compelled to comply with the order or be subject to a multiplicity of suits for penalties arising from each and every violation of the order, and that defendants threaten by suit to enforce the order. It was then averred that the order of the commission was a direct burden upon interstate commerce, and also a direct and unnecessary interference with the speedy carriage of the mails of the United States.

An amendment to the bill was subsequently filed showing that Congress had granted a right of way and sections of land in the State of Illinois to aid in the construction of a railroad from the southern termination of the Illinois & Michigan Canal to a point at or near the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, with branches, etc., which should remain a public highway for the use of the government of the United States, free from toll or other charges upon the transportation of any

Page 203 U. S. 340

property or troops of the United States, and on which mails of the United States should at all times be transported, and the Congress had made like grants to the states of Alabama and Mississippi, respectively, for the purpose of aiding in the construction of a railroad from the City of Mobile to a point near the mouth of the Ohio River, and it was also averred that the State of Illinois had chartered the complainant in 1850, and ceded to it rights and lands granted to that state by the act of Congress.

The defendant commission answered and denied the averments in the bill, as already stated.

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