United Gas Public Service Co. v. Texas,
303 U.S. 123 (1938)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United Gas Public Service Co. v. Texas, 303 U.S. 123 (1938)

United Gas Public Service Co. v. Texas

No. 13

Argued October 15, 18, 1937

Reargued December 14, 15, 1937

Decided February 14, 1938

303 U.S. 123


1. Procedure of a state commission in fixing the rate of a public utility; of a state court of first instance in a review by a trial de novo; and of a state appellate court in reviewing the judgment sustaining the rate, held consistent with due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 303 U. S. 128 et seq., 303 U. S. 138.

2. It is not the function of this Court, in reviewing a judgment of a state court, to determine whether the procedure in that court was in accordance with the state law; the final judgment of the state court determines that it was. P. 303 U. S. 139.

3. The power of a State over the procedure of its courts includes the power to require that issues of fact be decided by jury, even in a complicated and difficult case involving the adequacy of a rate fixed for a public utility. P. 303 U. S. 139.

4. On a trial of a rate case in which the issue of confiscation was put before a jury on a general charge with respect to the elements to be considered in determining whether the rate would yield a fair return on the value of the company's property used and useful in the public service, held that the company was not entitled under the Fourteenth Amendment to have special issues framed and submitted covering some, but not all, of the items involved in the determination. P. 303 U. S. 141.

5. This Court will review the findings of fact by a state court (1) where a federal right has been denied as a result of a finding shown by the record to be without evidence to support it, and (2) where a conclusion of law as to a federal right and findings of fact are so intermingled as to make it necessary, in order to pass upon the federal question, to analyze the facts, such analysis being made not to determine issues of fact arising on conflicting testimony or inference, but to perform this Court's proper function in deciding the question of law arising upon the findings which the evidence permits. P. 303 U. S. 142.

6. Upon a trial of the issue of confiscation, a public utility is not entitled to have property not used or useful in its business included

Page 303 U. S. 124

in the rate base, even though it was so included by the commission that fixed the rate. P. 303 U. S. 144.

7. In fixing a rate for the future, the ratemaking authority, in its consideration of returns from operations, is not limited to a particular year -- especially a year of abnormal economic conditions -- and, similarly, a trial court may consider the results of the utility's operations for a series of years, including those intervening between the time of promulgation of the rate and the time of trial, and determine the issue of confiscation in the light of the average return thus shown. P. 303 U. S. 145.

8. In estimating what will be the returns from a rate which has not been put into effect, a court is entitled to a reasonable basis for prediction, especially in view of a contemplated emergence from a period of extreme economic depression. P. 303 U. S. 145.

89 S.W.2d 1094 affirmed.

Appeal from the affirmance of a judgment sustaining an order of the Railroad Commission of Texas fixing a rate for the appellant Gas Company in the City of Laredo. The Supreme Court of Texas declined to grant a writ of error. With respect to the validity of a provision of the order making the questioned rate retroactive, this Court is equally divided.

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