United States v. Morgan
313 U.S. 409 (1941)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Morgan, 313 U.S. 409 (1941)

United States v. Morgan

No. 640

Argued April 10, 1941

Decided May 26, 1941

313 U.S. 409

Syllabus

1. The function of the Secretary of Agriculture, when determining under the Packers and Stockyards Act reasonable rates for services rendered by market agencies during a period of years past, is not merely to compare their actual expenditures and incomes, but involves consideration of the extent to which the services properly should be charged to the public. P. 313 U. S. 414.

2. As a basis for distribution of funds paid into the registry of the District Court by market agencies pursuant to an order granting an interlocutory injunction in their suit to enjoin the enforcement of an order of the Secretary of Agriculture purporting to fix their rates, which ultimately was adjudged void for defects of procedure, the Secretary of Agriculture reopened the proceeding and found and fixed for the impounding period rates which were on the level of those fixed by the original order.

Held:

(1) A contention that the Secretary based his judgment on conditions existing at the date of the original order, without considering subsequent changes, is disproved by the record. P. 313 U. S. 416.

(2) A contention that the Secretary's findings are without support in the evidence is without merit. P. 313 U. S. 417.

(3) Quite different considerations may properly have influenced the Secretary in fixing rates for the impounding period from those by which he determined a schedule of rates for the future. P. 313 U. S. 419.

(4) A motion that the Secretary be disqualified for bias was properly overruled by him. P. 313 U. S. 420.

The charge of bias grew out of his criticism of the decision of this Court declaring his original order void ( 304 U. S. 304 U.S. 1), in a letter which he wrote to a newspaper while in the mistaken belief that the decision meant return of the impounded funds to the market agencies. In overruling the motion, he explained the mistake, denied bias, and added that, as a matter of expediency, he might have disqualified himself but for the fact that, while the market agencies were pressing his disqualification, they were simultaneously urging that none other than the Secretary had legal authority to make the rate order.

Page 313 U. S. 410

(5) The fact that the Secretary not merely held but expressed strong views on matters believed by him to have been in issue in the earlier stage of the case did not unfit him for exercising his duty in the subsequent proceedings. P. 313 U. S. 421.

3. In a suit by market agencies attacking rates fixed by the Secretary of Agriculture, it was improper for the District Court, over the Government's objection, to authorize the plaintiffs to take the Secretary's deposition, and improper, upon his appearing at the trial, to examine him regarding the process by which he reached his conclusions, including the manner and extent of his study of the record and his consultation with subordinates. P. 313 U. S. 422.

4. Administrative and judicial processes are collaborative instrumentalities of justice, and the appropriate independence of each should be respected by the other. P. 313 U. S. 422.

32 F.Supp. 546 reversed.

Appeal from a decree of the District Court, of three judges, which adjudged invalid an order of the Secretary of Agriculture fixing rates and directed that funds in the registry that had been paid in by the plaintiffs be returned to them. The history of this protracted litigation is summed up in the first paragraph of the opinion.

Page 313 U. S. 413

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