A. L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. United States
368 U.S. 324 (1961)

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U.S. Supreme Court

A. L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. United States, 368 U.S. 324 (1961)

A. L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. United States

No. 41

Argued November 8-9, 1961

Decided December 18, 1961

368 U.S. 324

Syllabus

Over the protests of competing barge lines, and without any hearing, investigation, or findings, the Interstate Commerce Commission, basing its action on the first proviso in § 4(1) of the Interstate Commerce Act, granted certain railroads temporary authority, pending further consideration, to charge less for certain long hauls of grain than for shorter hauls over the same line or route, notwithstanding the general prohibition of § 4(1). The barge lines sued in a Federal District Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1336, which provides specifically for judicial review of the Commission's orders, and, under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Declaratory Judgment Act, to have the order set aside and to have the Commission's practice of issuing such orders in such manner declared to be beyond its powers. The railroads then eliminated the long-haul short-haul rate discrimination; withdrew their applications to the Commission for its authorization; intervened in the suit; and, together with the Commission, moved for dismissal, on the grounds (1) of mootness, and (2) that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to grant a declaratory judgment. The District Court granted the motions to dismiss, and the barge lines appealed to this Court under 28 U.S.C. §1253.

Held:

1. The District Court should have vacated the Commission's order which it declined to review on the ground of mootness. Pp. 368 U. S. 328-330.

2. In view of the fact that, on this appeal, the Commission has conceded that it is obliged to make findings before issuing such an order and that the order here involved is fatally defective for want of such findings, and the Commission's further representation that it has amended its practice accordingly, a declaratory judgment passing on the challenged Commission practice should be withheld at this time in the exercise of judicial discretion. This Court, therefore, does not decide whether there was an "actual controversy" before the District Court, or whether that Court otherwise had jurisdiction to render a declaratory judgment. Pp. 368 U. S. 330-331.

Page 368 U. S. 325

3. The District Court's order dismissing the complaint is modified to provide that the proceedings are remanded to the Commission with direction to vacate and set aside the order here involved. P. 368 U. S. 331.

188 F. Supp. 386, judgment modified.

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