Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry Co. v. United States
285 U.S. 382 (1932)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry Co. v. United States, 285 U.S. 382 (1932)

Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry Co. v. United States

No. 454

Argued February 18, 1932

Decided April 11, 1932

285 U.S. 382

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

1. Paragraphs 18, 19 and 20 of § 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act, respecting extension and new construction of railroads, are restricted to carriers engaged in transporting persons or property in interstate and foreign commerce, and were intended to affect intrastate commerce only as that may be incidental to the effective regulation of interstate commerce. P. 285 U. S. 390.

2. A company operating a ferry within a state under a state charter held capable, as a "party in interest," of instituting suit for the purpose of annulling an order and certificate of the Interstate Commerce Commission whereby permission was granted a railway company to extend its line by a ferry over the same waters, and for the purpose of enjoining the railway from constructing and operating such proposed ferry, it appearing from the bill that such action might directly and adversely affect the welfare of the plaintiff by changing the transportation situation. Id.

3. A suit of this kind is to be tried by the specially constituted district court under the Urgent Deficiencies Act of October 22, 1913, 28 U.S.C. § 7. Id.

Page 285 U. S. 383

4. The statute (28 U.S.C. §§ 46, 47) provides that suits to set aside orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission shall be brought in the district court against the United States, etc., and shall be heard before three judges at least one of whom must be a circuit judge. Held that, for the District of Columbia, such suits are triable in the Supreme Court of the District before two judges of that court and a judge of the Court of Appeals of the District. P. 285 U. S. 390.

5. In such a suit, an order of the Commission permitting extension of a railroad line by adding a ferry is not open to attack upon the ground that the railroad has not corporate power to operate a ferry. P. 285 U. S. 391.

6. Where the right of a plaintiff to enjoin an interstate carrier from constructing and operating an extension of its line depends upon the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act (§ 1, pars. 18-20) forbidding such construction and operation unless a certificate of convenience and necessity for the extension was granted the defendant carrier by the Commission, the fact that the Commission granted such an order, in a case within its jurisdiction, and upon sufficient evidence, is a complete defense. Id.

7. Evidence before the Commission held enough to support its conclusion that extension of the railway company's line across Chesapeake Bay by means of a ferry would bring material advantages to the public in the way of additional facilities for interstate transportation. P. 285 U. S. 392.

59 Wash.L.R. 410 affirmed.

Appeal from a decree of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, which dismissed a bill to set aside an order and a certificate of the Interstate Commerce Commission and for an injunction. 166 I.C.C. 293.

Page 285 U. S. 385

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Chesapeake Beach Railway Company, incorporated under Maryland laws and carrier by railroad subject to the Interstate Commerce Act, operates a line twenty-nine miles long which commences in the District of Columbia and passes southeastward through Maryland to Chesapeake Beach, twenty miles south of Annapolis. Connections

Page 285 U. S. 386

are made, and freight interchanged with the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad. The charter empowers it to build and operate a railroad, etc., to construct docks, piers, bridges, and retaining walls along the bay shore, and to "own and employ steamboats or other vessels to connect the said railroads with other points by water communication."

December 26, 1929, proceeding under § 1, pars. 18, 19, 20, Interstate Commerce Act, as amended by Transportation Act 1920, § 402, 49 U.S.C., the railway company petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to grant a certificate declaring "that the present or future public convenience and necessity require or will require the construction, or operation, or construction and operation," of the proposed addition or extension to its line. It stated the purpose

"to establish and operate, either directly or through a wholly owned subsidiary, a ferry for the transportation of passengers and property between the terminus of its said line at Chesapeake Beach, across Chesapeake Bay [16 miles], and a point on Trippe's Bay in Dorchester County, Maryland."

And it averred that

"the present and future public convenience and necessity require the establishment of the proposed ferry so as to afford a direct route by rail and water between the City of Washington and surrounding territory and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and also to provide a direct route for the transportation of automobiles and other vehicles between such points."

Notice was given to the Governor of Maryland; publication followed; all as required by the statute.

The Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry Company (appellant), Maryland corporation, which operates a ferry from Annapolis across Chesapeake Bay, intervened and opposed the railway's application

"for the reason that the ferry service proposed to be operated by the applicant from

Page 285 U. S. 387

Chesapeake Beach, Calvert County, Maryland, to a point on Trippe's Bay in Dorchester County, Maryland, will interfere with and hamper the efforts of your petitioner to give adequate service on its present route"

-- twenty miles further north. It denied that present and future public convenience and necessity requires establishment of the proposed ferry. No other party asked to intervene of offered objection to the requested certificate.

The commission took evidence, heard the parties, made a report, and, August 1, 1930, certified

"that the present and future public convenience and necessity require the establishment by the Chesapeake Beach Railway Company of ferry service across Chesapeake Bay, in Calvert and Dorchester Counties, Md. as set forth in the application and said report."

The ferry company asked modification of the report, order, and certificate

"in such manner as the Commission may deem best to remove any doubt that the permission granted the applicant is only for an extension of railroad, and not for the establishment of a general ferry service."

Among other things, the petition therefor stated:

"Your petitioner does not question the authority or the wisdom of this Honorable Commission in granting to the applicant a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity if the Commission construes the application of the Chesapeake Beach Railway Company in this case to be an application for a certificate authorizing an extension of its railroad. That, although the jurisdiction of this Honorable Commission in this case is limited in law to the grant of authority to the applicant to extend its line of railroad across the Chesapeake Bay by means of vessels, the Report, Order and Certificate filed in this case, on their face, would seem to indicate that the Commission has attempted to grant to the applicant authority to operate a general ferry across the Chesapeake Bay between the points known as Chesapeake

Page 285 U. S. 388

Beach, Calvert County, Maryland, and Trippe's Bay, Dorchester County, Maryland. While your petitioner does not suggest that this Honorable Commission has granted or attempted to grant to the applicant such a certificate, which could be granted only by the State of Maryland, yet the use of the language by the Commission as follows:"

"It is hereby certified, That the present and future public convenience and necessity require the establishment by the Chesapeake Beach Railway Company of ferry service across Chesapeake Bay, in Calvert and Dorchester Counties, Md. as set forth in the application and said report"

"is, we most respectfully submit, misleading and confusing."

The request was denied October 13, 1930.

December 24, 1930, appellant here, as sole complainant, filed an original bill in the Supreme Court, District of Columbia, against the Chesapeake Beach Railway Company and all members of the Interstate Commerce Commission, individually and as members thereof. Subsequently, the United States were made parties defendant. No others asked to come in or were added. After stating complainant's business, and that the Interstate Commerce Commission had granted the above-described certificate of public convenience and necessity, the bill alleged that the order and certificate were null and without effect because the evidence before the commission showed the carrier lacked corporate power to operate the ferry and had no actual use therefor in connection with its road; also, that no present or future public necessity and convenience required such operation. The prayer asked an injunction prohibiting the proposed construction, maintenance, and operation, pursuant to the order of August 1, 1930, and

"that it be adjudged, ordered, and decreed that the said order of the Interstate Commerce Commission of August 1, 1930, be set aside and annulled and held for naught."

Also, for general relief.

Page 285 U. S. 389

The proceedings before the Interstate Commerce Commission, the evidence presented there, and its action were presented to the court. The cause was heard at a special session held by one judge of the Court of Appeals and two judges of the Supreme Court. A final decree dismissed the bill and the cause is here upon direct appeal. 38 Stat. 208, 220, U.S.C., Title 28, § 345.

Section 1, par. 3, Interstate Commerce Act, as amended by Transportation Act 1920, provides that the term "railroad," as used in the Act, shall include all bridges, car floats, lighters, and ferries used by or operated in connection with any railroad. Paragraph 18 prohibits carriers from extending their lines, or constructing new ones,

"unless and until there shall first have been obtained from the Commission a certificate that the present or future public convenience and necessity require or will require the construction, or operation, or construction and operation of such additional or extended line of railroad."

Paragraph 19 prescribes the procedure in respect of applications for such certificates. Paragraph 20:

"From and after issuance of such certificate, and not before, the carrier by railroad may, without securing approval other than such certificate, comply with the terms and conditions contained in or attached to the issuance of such certificate and proceed with the construction, operation, or abandonment covered thereby. Any construction, operation, or abandonment contrary to the provisions of this paragraph or of paragraph (18) or (19) of this section may be enjoined by any court of competent jurisdiction at the suit of the United States, the Commission, any commission or regulating body of the state or states affected, or any party in interest, and any carrier which, or any director, officer, receiver, operating trustee, lessee, agent, or person, acting for or employed by such carrier, who knowingly authorizes, consents to, or permits any violation of the provisions of this paragraph or of paragraph (18) of this

Page 285 U. S. 390

section shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than $5,000 or by imprisonment for not more than three years, or both."

Chap. 91, 41 Stat. 474-478; U.S.C., Title 49, § 1.

Paragraphs 18, 19, and 20 were added to the Act to Regulate Interstate Commerce by the Transportation Act 1920, § 402. They are restricted to carriers engaged in transporting persons or property in interstate and foreign commerce, and were intended to affect intrastate commerce only as that may be incidental to the effective regulation of interstate commerce. Texas v. Eastern Texas R. Co.,258 U. S. 204, 258 U. S. 213, 258 U. S. 217.

Considering Texas v. Eastern R. Co., supra; Colorado v. United States,271 U. S. 153; Western Pacific California R. Co. v. Southern Pacific Co.,284 U. S. 47, and Transit Commission v. United States,284 U. S. 360, it must be held that appellant is a "party in interest," within the meaning of the statute, capable of instituting the present proceeding. The bill disclosed that the proposed and permitted action might directly and adversely affect its welfare by changing the transportation situation. The cause is one of the class to be tried by a specially constituted district court under the Urgent Deficiencies Act, Oct. 22, 1913, c. 32, 38 Stat. 208, 220 (U.S.C. Title 28, § 47).

U.S.Code, title 28, § 46 (Judicial Code, § 208), provides that suits to enjoin, set aside, annul, or suspend any order of the Interstate Commerce Commission shall be brought in the District Court against the United States, etc. Section 47 directs that they shall be heard before three judges, at least one of whom must be a circuit judge.

It has been suggested that the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia cannot be regarded as a District Court, and judges of the Court of Appeals of the District are not circuit judges within those provisions; consequently,

Page 285 U. S. 391

the District Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to hear the present cause. The point is without merit.

Section 43, Title 18, District of Columbia Code 1929, provides that the Supreme Court

"shall possess the same powers and exercise the same jurisdiction as the district courts of the United States, and shall be deemed a court of the United States."

Federal Trade Commission v. Klesner,274 U. S. 145, 274 U. S. 156, held that § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, conferring jurisdiction on the Circuit Courts of Appeals to enforce, set aside, or modify orders of the Commission should be construed as conferring like jurisdiction upon the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.

"The parallelism between the Supreme Court of the District and the Court of Appeals of the District, on the one hand, and the District Courts of the United States and the Circuit Courts of Appeals, on the other, in the consideration and disposition of cases involving what among the states would be regarded as within federal jurisdiction, is complete."

And see Pitts v. Peak, 50 F.2d 485.

Whether the railway company has corporate power to operate the proposed ferry is a question which cannot be considered in this proceeding. We think Congress never intended to impose upon the Interstate Commerce Commission the duty of determining matters of this nature before granting or withholding assent to the construction of an extension. Cleveland C.C. & St.L. Ry. Co. v. United States,275 U. S. 404, 275 U. S. 414.

The right of appellant ferry company to institute and maintain this proceeding rests wholly upon the permission granted by paragraph 20, § 1. "Any party in interest" may institute a suit to enjoin proposed construction, operation, or abandonment of a carrier's line unless it has obtained a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Interstate Commerce Commission. In

Page 285 U. S. 392

the absence of such certificate, the doing of any of these things is declared to be unlawful -- a crime subject to punishment by fine and imprisonment. And the permission is to apply to the court for an order to arrest the unlawful undertaking. The inhibition applies where there is no certificate in fact or where the Commission lacked power to grant the outstanding one because of insufficient evidence to support its findings or other reason. An invalid certificate would leave the situation as though none had issued. Chicago, R.I. & P. Ry. v. United States,274 U. S. 29.

Here, undoubtedly, the Commission had power to entertain and act upon the railway's petition, also to grant the certificate of public convenience and necessity upon sufficient evidence. If the record discloses such evidence, the certificate is not a nullity, and the ferry company has no right now to demand decision of any other question.

We think there was enough evidence -- when material and conflicting, we may not pass upon its weight -- to support the Commission's conclusion. A large district on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay lacks adequate railroad connection with Washington and points beyond. The possibilities of the proposed ferry, operated as a part of the railway's line, were disclosed, and the Commission's conclusion that material advantages to the public would result from the additional facilities for interstate transportation is not without support.

The decree below is

Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE CARDOZO took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

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