Hampton v. St. Louis, I.M. & S. Ry. Co.,
227 U.S. 456 (1913)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hampton v. St. Louis, I.M. & S. Ry. Co., 227 U.S. 456 (1913)

Hampton v. St. Louis, Iron Mountain

and Southern Railway Company

No. 3

Argued October 29, 30, 1912

Decided February 24, 1913

227 U.S. 456


A provision in a state statute that interstate railroads shall furnish cars for interstate shipments which regulates the furnishing of cars is invalid by reason of the Hepburn Act, but if it only means that there shall be no discrimination against interstate shipments, it might not invalidate an act, otherwise valid, as to intrastate shipments.

The fact that an act requiring railroads to furnish cars includes no exceptions is not conclusive of its meaning and intent, and an act cannot be construed as not permitting any exceptions where, as in this case, the state court has held that the penalties are enforceable only in an action at law, and that, as such a provision is declaratory of the common law, any reasonable excuse may be interposed.

This Court will not entertain a case where the party setting up the unconstitutionality of a statute does not belong to the class for whose sake the constitutional protection is given or to the class primarily affected, nor will it at the instance of a party not belonging to a class affected, go into an imaginary case on the ground that the law, if unconstitutional as to one, is so as to all. Hatch v. Reardon, 204 U. S. 152.

Where there was an agreement of the parties to confine the case wholly to the question of constitutionality of the statute attacked, and complainant does not show that his rights protected under the Constitution have actually been invaded, but the objections suggested are conjectural, the bill should be dismissed, and so held as to an action brought to test the constitutionality under the commerce clause of a statute of Arkansas requiring railroads to promptly furnish cars.

162 F. 693 reversed.

This bill was filed for the purpose of enjoining the bringing of actions in the state courts, in the name of the state, to recover penalties declared by the Railroad Commission

Page 227 U. S. 457

of the state for the violation of a statute requiring railroads to furnish cars upon the application of shippers, and forbidding discrimination between shippers in furnishing such cars.

The facts necessary to be stated are these:

Upon a complaint duly filed, and after a full hearing, the Railroad Commission of the state found that the railroad company had, during every day between September 20th and September 30th, 1907, inclusive, refused to furnish cars upon statutory notice and request of the operators of several coal companies operating along the line of its railroad in the State of Arkansas, and had also, during the same period, discriminated in favor of a coal company which it controlled by furnishing it with an adequate supply of cars, although part of the coal so carried was for sale upon the market. The requests for cars so refused were for shipments from the mines within the state to destinations in the same state, and were not for the purpose of interstate transportation.

The bill charged that the Railroad Commission was about to transmit a transcript of its proceedings to the several state prosecuting attorneys in counties where the railroad was situated, with an order that action should be brought in the name of the state for the enforcement of the penalties, as provided by §§ 11 and 18 of an Act of the Arkansas Legislature of March 11, 1899 (Act 53, Laws of 1899, pp. 82, 89, 93), being § 6804, Kirby's Digest.

The bill alleges that, although engaged in operating a railroad within the State of Arkansas, the company's lines extended into adjacent states, and that it is therefore an interstate carrier, subject to the Act of Congress of February 4, 1887, and its amendments. It charges that, by an Act of the Legislature of the State of Arkansas passed April 19, 1907 (Act 192, Acts of 1907, p. 453), the Railroad Commission of the state is vested with authority to regulate railroads within the state in respect to the duty of

Page 227 U. S. 458

furnishing cars to shippers, and that it has, under that authority, promulgated order No. 346, which follows in phraseology the provisions of § 1 of the act referred to. It is then contended that this Act of April 19, 1907, and the order of the Commission in pursuance of said first section, constitute an exertion of the power of the state over interstate commerce, and as such are invalid. It was averred that, if the bringing of the threatened suits was not enjoined, complainant would be subjected to a multitude of actions and to a liability for the excessive penalties imposed by the eighteenth section of the Act of 1899, being a minimum of not less than $500 for each offense, and a maximum of as much as $3,000.

The bill denied any liability under the act, even if valid, and presented various reasons why it had not supplied the cars requested.

Answer was filed and issue taken upon every material defense set up upon the merits. The cause was heard upon bill and answer, there being no evidence upon the matters of defense touching the merits of the case.

The circuit court held the entire Act of April 19, 1907 to be null and void as an invalid invasion of the field of interstate commerce, and accordingly enjoined its enforcement and the bringing of the actions which the Commission had ordered.

Page 227 U. S. 462

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