United States v. Erie R. Co.
Annotate this Case
236 U.S. 259 (1915)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Erie R. Co., 236 U.S. 259 (1915)
United States v. Erie Railroad Company
Nos. 493, 494
Argued January 11, 12, 1915
Decided February 23, 1915
236 U.S. 259
A ruling of the Interstate Commerce Commission which was never enforced, the custom of the carriers being uniformly the other way, cannot have the weight ordinarily accorded to the contemporaneous construction of a statute by the officers upon whom is imposed the duty of administering it.
While the Act to Regulate Commerce controls the relations of carriers subject to the act with each other, such carriers may have relations with other carriers who are not subject to the act, and permission to exchange passes with other carriers subject to the act can reasonably extend to other carriers who are not subject thereto, the same business reasons existing in both cases.
A comparison of possibilities under different constructions of a statute, which is but a comparison of excesses that are possible but not likely to be practiced, is not a fair argument.
The practice of carriers exchanging passes with other carriers has its justification in a strictly business policy, and, instead of being a burden upon their resources, is an aid.
The permission in the proviso of § 1 of the Act to Regulate Commerce, as amended by the Act of June 29, 1906, for the interchange of passes by common carriers, includes the interchange of passes with carriers not subject to the provisions of the act as well as those who are subject thereto.
The facts, which involve the provisions of the Act to Regulate Commerce regulating the giving and exchange of passes by carriers, are stated in the opinion.