Public Utilities Comm'n of California v. United States,
355 U.S. 534 (1958)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Public Utilities Comm'n of California v. United States, 355 U.S. 534 (1958)

Public Utilities Commission of California v. United States

No. 23

Argued January 7, 1958

Decided March 3, 1958

355 U.S. 534


California enacted, and its Public Utilities Commission plainly indicated an intent to enforce, a statute which would have made contingent upon the Commission's prior approval continuation of the Federal Government's long established practice, sanctioned by federal law and regulations, of negotiating with common carriers special rates for the shipment of government property within the State. The United States sued in a federal court for a declaratory judgment declaring the state statute unconstitutional insofar as it prohibits carriers from transporting government property at rates other than those approved by the Commission.


1. The federal court had jurisdiction of the case and power to grant the relief sought. Pp. 355 U. S. 536-540.

(a) There was an "actual controversy" between the United States and the Commission within the meaning of the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Pp. 355 U. S. 536-539.

(b) In the circumstances of this case, the Government's complaint was not barred by its failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Pp. 355 U. S. 539-540.

(c) Injunctive relief in this case was not barred by 28 U.S.C. § 1342. P. 355 U. S. 540.

2. When Congress authorizes its procurement agents to negotiate rates, a State may not require that those rates be approved by it. The United States cannot be subjected to discretionary authority of a state agency for the terms on which, by grace, it can make arrangements for services to be rendered it. Pp. 355 U. S. 540-546.

141 F. Supp. 168 affirmed.

Page 355 U. S. 535

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