ICC v. Oregon-Washington R. & Nav. Co.
288 U.S. 14 (1933)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

ICC v. Oregon-Washington R. & Nav. Co., 288 U.S. 14 (1933)

Interstate Commerce Commission v.

Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Co.

No. 23

Argued November 8, 9, 1932

Decided January 9, 1933

288 U.S. 14

Syllabus

1. In a suit to set aside an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission requiring a railroad extension, that Commission and commissions representing interested states having intervened to defend the order, are entitled as "aggrieved parties" to appeal to this Court from a decree annulling it, even though the United States, as represented by the Attorney General, will not join in the appeal. Urgent Deficiencies Act, Oct. 22, 1913; Commerce Court Act, §§ 2, 5. P. 288 U. S. 22.

2. Upon such an appeal, a decree may be obtained enforcing the rights of the United States. P. 288 U. S. 25.

3. An official may be designated to stand in judgment on behalf of the United States so that a decree against him binds the Government; Congress had power, in naming the United States as the defendant in such suits, to give the Commission, and others having an interest, authority to litigate the validity of such orders, and, regardless of joinder by the Attorney General, to obtain by appeal a review effective as to the United States. P. 288 U. S. 27.

4. That part of par. 21 of § 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act which authorizes the Commission to require a carrier "to extend its line

Page 288 U. S. 15

or lines," provided the Commission find that such extension is reasonably required in the interest of public convenience and necessity and that the expense involved therein will not impair the ability of the carrier to perform its duty to the public refers to extensions within the carrier's undertaking, and does not empower the Commission to compel the building of what is essentially a new line to reach new territory which the carrier never agreed to serve. Pp. 288 U. S. 35et seq.

5. This provision of par. 21 is in contrast with that part of par. 18 of the same section which provides that no company shall undertake "the extension of its line, or the construction of a new line of railroad," without having first obtained a certificate of present or future public convenience and necessity from the Commission. P. 288 U. S. 36.

6. The Act distinguishes between three sorts of facilities -- new lines, or extensions, voluntarily undertaken (§ 18), compulsory extensions within the area which the carrier has bound itself to serve (§ 21), and spur, industrial, team, switching or side tracks located wholly within one state, which are left within state control (§ 22). Pp. 288 U. S. 38-40.

7. A statute should be construed, if fairly possible, so as to avoid grave doubt of its constitutionality. P. 288 U. S. 40.

8. Having charter authority to build a line of railroad does not commit the company to an obligation to build. P. 288 U. S. 43.

47 F.2d 250 affirmed.

Appeal from a decree of the District Court of three judges which set aside and enjoined the execution of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission requiring the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Co. (a subsidiary of the Oregon Short Line, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Co.) to build an "extension" from a point on its railroad in Oregon, 185 miles across an arid, sparsely settled and unproductive country, to a point on one of the lines of the Southern Pacific System, west of the Cascade Range. The report of the Commission is 159 I.C.C. 630. See also 111 id. 3.

Page 288 U. S. 21

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