ICC v. Humboldt Steamship Co.,
224 U.S. 474 (1912)

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U.S. Supreme Court

ICC v. Humboldt Steamship Co., 224 U.S. 474 (1912)

Interstate Commerce Commission v. Humboldt Steamship Company

No. 859

Argued April 16, 1912

Decided April 29, 1912

224 U.S. 474


Alaska is a Territory of the United States within the meaning of § 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended June 29, 1906, 34 Stat. 584, c. 3591.

An organized Territory of the United States does not necessarily mean one having a local legislature, as distinguished from one having a less autonomous form of government, such as that of Alaska.

Even if "Territory of the United States," as used in § 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act as amended, includes only organized territories, Alaska falls within its meaning. The Steamer Coquitlam, 163 U. S. 346; Binns v. United States, 194 U. S. 486; Rassmussen v. United States, 197 U. S. 516.

The Hepburn Act of June 29, 1906, 34 Stat. 584, c. 3591, extended the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act to inter-territorial commerce and for the first time gave to the Commission the power to fix rates. In so doing, it made the act completely comprehensive, and the power given to the Commission superseded the power of the Secretary of the Interior to revise and modify rates of railroads in Alaska given by § 2 of the Act of May 14, 1898, 30 Stat. 409, c.299.

Mandamus can be issued to direct performance of a ministerial act but not to control discretion. It may be directed to a tribunal, one acting in a judicial capacity, to proceed in a manner according to his or its discretion.

The jurisdiction to determine jurisdiction, Ex Parte Harding, 219 U. S. 363, does not exist in an administrative body which is subject to having its jurisdiction defined by the courts.

The United States Commerce Court has no jurisdiction to review the action of the Interstate Commerce Commission in refusing to entertain a complaint because the subject is beyond its jurisdiction. In such a case the remedy is by mandamus to compel the Commission

Page 224 U. S. 475

to proceed and decide the case according to its judgment and discretion.

The Interstate Commerce Commission has jurisdiction to investigate violations of the Act to Regulate Commerce in Alaska, and to compel carriers in that Territory to conform to the law, and if the Commission refuses to act on the ground that it has no jurisdiction, mandamus will issue directing it to take jurisdiction.

39 Wash.L.Rep. 386 aff'd, and 19 I.C.C. 81, disapproved.

The facts, which involve the status of common carriers in Alaska under the Interstate Commerce Act, and the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission over common carriers in Alaska, are stated in the opinion.

Page 224 U. S. 477

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