Southern Pacific Co. v. ICC - 219 U.S. 433 (1911)
U.S. Supreme Court
Southern Pacific Co. v. ICC, 219 U.S. 433 (1911)
Southern Pacific Company v.
Interstate Commerce Commission
Argued December 13, 1910
Decided February 20, 1911
219 U.S. 433
An order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, made in consequence of assumption of powers not possessed by it, is void, and its enforcement should be restrained by the courts.
The powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission do not extend to regulating and controlling the policy of the owners of railroads in fixing rates, and it cannot substitute for a just and reasonable rate, a lower rate either on the ground of policy or on the ground that the railroad was by its former conduct estopped from charging a reasonable rate.
Where the shippers do not complain of a new and higher rate because it is intrinsically an unreasonable one, but because, although reasonable, the railroads are estopped to advance it on account of having maintained the lower rate for a considerable period, it is beyond the power of the Commission to direct a restoration of the old rate, and so held in regard to the Willamette Valley lumber rates.
Where the Commission makes an order restoring a rate that shows on its face it was made on the ground that the railroad was estopped to increase it, the order will not be presumed to have been made for the purpose of establishing a reasonable rate if it excludes a section from the benefit of the restored rate which amounts to a discrimination against that section.
Questions arising on the validity of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission fixing a rate do not become moot merely because the period for which the rate is prescribed has expired where an element of liability for reparation remains. See Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, post, p. 219 U. S. 498.
The facts, which involve the validity of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission in regard to appellants' rates on lumber, are stated in the opinion.