Arizona Grocery Co. v. Atchison, T. & S.F. Ry. Co. - 284 U.S. 370 (1932)
U.S. Supreme Court
Arizona Grocery Co. v. Atchison, T. & S.F. Ry. Co., 284 U.S. 370 (1932)
Arizona Grocery Co. v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co.
Argued December 8, 1931
Decided January 4, 1932
284 U.S. 370
1. Where the Commission has, upon complaint and after hearing, declared what is the maximum reasonable rate to be charged by a carrier, it may not at a later time, and upon the same or additional evidence a to the fact situation existing when its previous
order was promulgated, by declaring its own finding as to reasonableness erroneous, subject a carrier which conformed thereto to the payment of reparation measured by what the Commission now holds it should have decided in the earlier proceedings to be a reasonable rate. Pp. 284 U. S. 383-390.
2. When the Commission, by its authority under the Transportation Act, declares a specific rate to be the reasonable and lawful rate for the future, it exercises a legislative function, and its pronouncement has the force of a statute. This is well established as to the fixing of specific rates by state commissions, and in this respect there is no difference between authority delegated by a state legislature and that conferred by Congress. P. 284 U. S. 386.
3. When the Commission fixes a maximum rate, or maximum and minimum rates, the carrier is not obliged at its peril to see that the rates it maintains within the limits so authorized are reasonable. Pp. 284 U. S. 386-387.
4. In declaring a maximum rate the Commission exercises a delegated power legislative in character, and may act only within the scope of the delegation; its authority is to fix a maximum reasonable rate, and it is precluded by the statute from fixing one which is unreasonable. P. 284 U. S. 387.
5. When the carrier establishes a rate within the limits of the Commission's order, that rate becomes a lawful -- that is, a reasonable rate. Id.
6. The prescription of a maximum rate, or maximum and minimum rates, is as legislative in quality as the fixing of an exact rate. P. 284 U. S. 388.
7. The action of the Commission in fixing rates for the future is subject to the same tests as to its validity as would be an act of Congress intended to accomplish the same purpose. Id.
8. Where the Commission has made an order having a dual aspect, it may not, in a subsequent proceeding, acting in its quasi-judicial capacity, ignore its own pronouncement promulgated in its quasi-legislative capacity and retroactively repeal its own enactment as to the reasonableness of the rate it has prescribed. P. 284 U. S. 389.
49 F.2d 563 affirmed.
Certiorari, post, p. 600, to review a judgment reversing a judgment in favor of a shipper in a suit to enforce an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission awarding reparations.