Burlington Truck Lines, Inc. v. United States
Annotate this Case
371 U.S. 156 (1962)
U.S. Supreme Court
Burlington Truck Lines, Inc. v. United States, 371 U.S. 156 (1962)
Burlington Truck Lines, Inc. v. United States
Argued October 15-16, 1962
Decided December 3, 1962
371 U.S. 156
Because of a labor dispute, arrangements between nonunionized shortline motor carriers in Nebraska for the interchange of traffic with unionized trunkline motor carriers for movement to and from points beyond Nebraska were disrupted by a union-induced boycott of such traffic under "hot cargo" clauses in contracts between the unions and the trunkline carriers which protected the employees' right to refuse to handle "unfair goods." To meet this situation, the short-line carriers organized a corporation which applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission under §207(a) of the Interstate Commerce Act for authority to act as an interstate motor carrier. The Commission found that the union-induced boycott of the short-line carriers by the trunkline carriers had resulted in serious inadequacies in the services available to a large section of the public, and it granted the applicant part of the operating authority requested. It made no findings to justify the choice of this remedy instead of other forms of relief under other sections of the Act. Four months later, Congress enacted the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, which at least raised serious questions as to the validity of the union-induced boycott. Subsequently, the District Court sustained the Commission's order as within the scope of its authority, based on adequate findings and supported by substantial evidence.
Held: the judgment is reversed and the case is remanded to the District Court with instructions to set aside the Commission's order and remand the case to the Commission for further proceedings. Pp. 371 U. S. 158-174.
1. The Commission's order must be set aside as an improvident exercise of its discretion as to the choice of remedies. Pp. 371 U. S. 165-170.
(a) When, as here, the particular deviations from an otherwise completely adequate service (which has economic need for the traffic) consist solely of illegal and discriminatory refusals to accept or deliver traffic from or to particular carriers or shippers, the powers of the Commission under §§204, 212, and 216 bear heavily on the propriety of relief under § 207. Pp. 371 U. S. 165-166.
(b) In such a case, the choice of the certification remedy may not be automatic; it must be rational and based upon conscious choice that, in the circumstances, the public interest in "adequate, economical, and efficient service" outbalances whatever public interest there is in protecting the revenues of existing carriers, in order to "foster sound economic conditions in transportation and among the several carriers," and the other opposing interests. Pp. 371 U. S. 166-167.
(c) The Commission made no findings or analysis to justify its choice of remedies, and gave no indication of the basis on which it exercised its expert discretion. Such adjudicatory practice is not acceptable to this Court, nor permissible under the Administrative Procedure Act. Pp. 371 U. S. 167-168.
(d) The Commission erred in disregarding the suggestion that the refusals of the trunkline carriers to serve could be terminated through complaint procedures, thus obviating the need for additional service; and that error cannot now be justified on the ground that a cease and desist order would have been ineffective, since the Commission made no findings to support such a conclusion. Securities & Exchange Comm'n v. Chenery Corp., 332 U. S. 194. Pp. 371 U. S. 168-169.
(e) Moreover, there was not substantial evidence of record upon which to base a finding that complaint procedures would have been ineffective, and there was every indication at the time that such procedures would have been effective under the law as it then stood. Pp. 371 U. S. 169-170.
2. In view of the enactment of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, four months after the Commission's decision and over a year before the District Court handed down its decision, the District Court should not have affirmed the Commission's order; in the exercise of its discretion, it should have vacated the order and remanded the case to the Commission for further consideration in the light of changed circumstances. Pp. 371 U. S. 171-172.
3. Upon remand, the Commission should be particularly careful in its choice of remedy (if any still be needed), because of the possible effects of its decision on the functioning of the national labor relations policy. Pp. 371 U. S. 172-174.
194 F.Supp. 31 reversed, and cause remanded.
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