United States v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co.
236 U.S. 318 (1915)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 236 U.S. 318 (1915)

United States v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company

No. 499

Argued January 5 and 6, 1915

Decided February 23, 1915

236 U.S. 318

Syllabus

No authority beyond that already conferred on the Interstate Commerce Commission by the Act to Regulate Commerce can be derived by that Commission from a resolution passed by only one branch of Congress, and so held that the powers of the Commission in making the investigation required by Senate Resolution No. 153, in regard to inspection of accounts and other papers, are limited to those conferred by the Act to Regulate Commerce and the amendments thereto.

Section 12 of the Act to Regulate Commerce does not make provision for inspection of accounts and correspondence of carriers authorized by the Commission; that feature was added by the Hepburn Act of June 29, 1906, amending § 20 of the Commerce Act.

The Hepburn Act, like other statutes, may be read in the light of the purpose it was intended to subserve, and the history of its origin and the report of the Interstate Commerce Commission submitted to Congress recommending the passage of the Act may be referred to.

As construed in the light of such report, and applying the rule of noscitur a sociis, § 20 of the Act to Regulate Commerce does not provide for the compulsory inspection of the correspondence of carriers, but is limited to accounts, including records, documents and memoranda.

Congress is not likely to enact a sweeping provision subjecting all correspondence of carriers to examination, attended with serious consequences in cases of withholding it, without using language adequate to that purpose.

The protection of confidential communications between attorney and client is well known and recognized as a matter of public policy.

The right of inspection of whatever accounts, records, documents, and memoranda are included within § 20 of the Act to Regulate Commerce, as amended by the Hepburn Act, is not limited to those kept and made after the passage of the latter Act, but includes those kept and made prior thereto.

Page 236 U. S. 319

Quaere whether compulsory inspection of correspondence and other matters referred to in Senate Resolution No. 153 of Nov. 6, 1913, can be permitted within the constitutional rights of the carrier. Where the Interstate Commerce Commission has applied for a writ of mandamus broader than the law permits, and no amendment was made narrowing the demand, but the petition was dismissed without prejudice, the proper practice is to affirm the order, and not to reverse so as to grant the relief within the limits which the law allows; a new proceeding may be started for that purpose.

212 F. 486 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the power of the federal court to require the production of testimony, books, and papers by a carrier under the provisions of the Anti-Trust Act in a proceeding started by the Interstate Commerce Commission pursuant to a resolution of the Senate of the United States, are stated in the opinion.

Page 236 U. S. 323

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