United States v. ICC - 352 U.S. 158 (1956)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. ICC, 352 U.S. 158 (1956)
United States v. Interstate Commerce Commission
Argued October 11, 1956
Decided December 17, 1956
352 U.S. 158
Since May 1, 1951, railroads serving the port of Norfolk, Va., have refused to pay an allowance to the Army for the wharfage and handling services the Army performs for itself on military export traffic passing through Army base piers. In their tariffs, the railroads assumed the obligation to furnish such services for all shippers that complied with the tariffs, and accordingly furnished the services for commercial shippers at public sections of the same piers without additional charge. Because the Army provides these services itself, it claimed a right to the $1.00 per ton paid by the railroads on behalf of commercial shippers. A complaint charging the railroads with violating the Interstate Commerce Act was dismissed by the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the United States sued to set aside the order.
Held: in the circumstances of this case, the refusal of the railroads to make the allowance to the Army did not subject the Government to unjust discrimination and did not constitute an unreasonable practice in violation of the Interstate Commerce Act. Pp. 352 U. S. 160-176.
(a) The circumstances of Army shipments are markedly different from those of private shippers that received wharfage and handling services; and the Army was treated identically with those shippers who, for business reasons, did not care to comply with the tariff requirements. Pp. 352 U. S. 168-169.
(b) Although the Army hired the same private company as did the railroads to operate the Army portion of the base, the Army's control was "absolute." Pp. 352 U. S. 169-171.
(c) The method of handling government freight did not comply with the tariff requirements. P. 352 U. S. 172.
(d) Any deviation from tariffs by carriers violates § 6(7) of the Interstate Commerce Act unless they grant a concession to the United States under § 22. P. 352 U. S. 172.
(e) The Government was being treated just as any shipper who decides not to take advantage of the services offered in the tariff and takes deliveries of export rate traffic at private piers under his own control. Pp. 352 U. S. 172-173.
(f) That the Government took control of the piers to meet a national emergency cannot convert the Government's operation of its private piers into a category different from that of private shippers. P. 352 U. S. 173.
(g) The fact that the operations of the Government and the railroads are in the same pier area is immaterial. P. 352 U. S. 174.
(h) If the railroads gave an allowance in these circumstances, excepting one given as a concession to the Government under § 22 of the Act, they would have to give it at all private piers where the shipper wanted to handle wharfage at its own discretion. P. 352 U. S. 174.
(i) The Government has the right to have its shipments accorded the same privileges given others; in emergencies, its traffic my have "preference or priority in transportation," and it may be granted and may accept preferences in rates, but it cannot otherwise require extra services or allowances. P. 352 U. S. 174.
(k) Whether circumstances and conditions are sufficiently dissimilar to justify differences in rates or charges is a question of fact for the Commission's determination. Pp. 352 U. S. 175-176.
132 F.Supp. 34, affirmed.