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NORTHERN PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY ET AL. v. STATE NORTH DAKOTA ON RELATION LANGER

decided: June 2, 1919.

NORTHERN PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY ET AL
v.
STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA ON THE RELATION OF LANGER, ATTORNEY GENERAL.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA.

Author: White

[ 250 U.S. Page 141]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

In taking over the railroads from private ownership to its control and operation, was the resulting power of the United States to fix the rates to be charged for the transportation services to be by it rendered subordinated to the asserted authority of the several States to regulate the

[ 250 U.S. Page 142]

     rates for all local or intrastate business, is the issue raised on this record. It arises from the allowance by the court below of a peremptory writ of mandamus commanding the Director General of the Railroads, appointed by the President, and the officers of the Northern Pacific Railway Company to desist from charging for transportation in intrastate business in North Dakota the rates fixed by the United States for such services. When this command was obeyed, the mandamus ordered that the Director General should thereafter exact for the services stated only lesser rates which were fixed in a schedule on file with the State Utilities Commission prior to the bringing of suit and which rates under the law of North Dakota could not be changed without the approval of the Utilities Commission. In the opinion of the court below it was stated that all the parties admitted that there was no question as to the Jurisdiction to consider the controversy and that they all also agreed that no contention was presented as to the power of Congress to enact the law upon which the controversy depended, as the correct interpretation of such law was the only issue to be decided. We consequently put those subjects temporarily out of view. We say temporarily, since, even upon the assumption that issues concerning them necessarily inhere in the cause and cannot be waived by the parties, we could not decide concerning such issues without interpreting the statute, which we proceed to do.

On the 29th of August, 1916 (39 Stat. 645), Congress gave the President power "in time of war . . . to take possession and assume control of any system or systems of transportation, or any part thereof, and to utilize the same, to the exclusion as far as may be necessary of all other traffic thereon, for the transfer or transportation of troops, war material and equipment, or for such other purposes connected with the emergency as may be needful or desirable." War with Germany was declared in April, 1917, and with Austria on December 7th of the same year

[ 250 U.S. Page 143]

     (40 Stat. 1; ib. 429). On December 26, 1917, the President, referring to the existing state of war and the power with which he had been invested by Congress in August, 1916, proclaimed that:

"Under and by virtue of the powers vested in me by the foregoing resolutions and statute, and by virtue of all other powers thereto me enabling, [I] do hereby . . . take possession and assume control at 12 o'clock noon on the twenty-eighth day of December, 1917, of each and every system of transportation and the appurtenances thereof located wholly or in part within the boundaries of the continental United States and consisting of railroads, and owned or controlled systems of coastwise and inland transportation, engaged in general transportation, whether operated by steam or by electric power, including also terminals, terminal companies and terminal associations, sleeping and parlor cars, private cars and private car lines, elevators, warehouses, telegraph and telephone lines and all other equipment and appurtenances commonly used upon or operated as a part of such rail or combined rail and water systems of transportation; -- to the end that said systems of transportation bel utilized for the transfer and transportation of troops, war material and equipment, to the exclusion so far as may be necessary of all other traffic thereon; and that so far as such exclusive use be not necessary or desirable, such systems of transportation be operated and utilized in the performance of such other services as the national interest may require and of the usual and ordinary business and duties of common carriers." [40 Stat. 1733.]

By the proclamation a Director General of Railroads was appointed with full authority to take possession and control of the systems embraced by the proclamation and to operate and administer the same. To this end the Director General was given authority to avail himself of the services of the existing railroad officials, boards of

[ 250 U.S. Page 144]

     directors, receivers, employees, etc., who were authorized to continue to perform their duties in accordance with their previous authority "until and except so far as said Director shall from time to time by general or special orders otherwise provide." Limited by the same qualification the systems of transportation taken over by the Government were made subject to existing statutes and orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission and to all statutes and orders of regulating commissions of the various States in which said systems or any party thereof might be located. In addition, however, to the limitation previously stated the proclamation in express terms declared: "But any orders, general or special, hereafter made by said Director, shall have paramount authority and be obeyed as such."

The proclamation imposed the duty upon the Director General to negotiate with the owners of the railroad companies for an agreement as to compensation for the possession, use and control of their respective properties on the basis of an annual guaranteed compensation and with reservations in the interest of creditors, bondholders, etc. The proclamation in concluding declared that "from and after twelve o'clock on said twenty-eithth day of December, 1917, all transportation systems included in this order and proclamation shall conclusively be deemed within the possession and control of said Director without further ...


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