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decided: January 3, 1939.



Hughes, McReynolds, Brandeis, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed

Author: Reed

[ 305 U.S. Page 513]

 MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Interstate Commerce Commission entered an order on February 2, 1937, which directed certain carriers serving the Port of New York district to cease and desist on or before April 5, 1937, from permitting shippers in interstate commerce over the carriers' lines from occupying "space by lease or otherwise in warehouses, buildings or on piers owned or controlled directly or indirectly by, or affiliated with" the carriers involved "at rates and charges which failed to compensate said" carriers "for the cost of providing said space." The cease and desist order likewise directed the carriers to abstain from storing, handling or insuring goods for shippers at less than cost. One carrier was also directed to abstain from granting concessions to a warehouse company by means of leasing space to the warehouse company at less than the cost of the space to the carrier.

[ 305 U.S. Page 514]

     As authorized by the Judicial Code,*fn1 a petition in equity was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 9, 1937, seeking a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the order. A hearing was had by a three-judge court pursuant to the provisions of the Urgent Deficiencies Appropriation Act of October 22, 1913,*fn2 and a final order dismissing the petition entered on March 23, 1938.*fn3 An appeal was taken directly to this Court as authorized by the Urgent Deficiencies Act and the Judicial Code.*fn4

The order appealed from was entered in an investigation into "practices of carriers affecting operating revenues or expenses"*fn5 undertaken by the Interstate Commerce Commission upon its own motion.*fn6 For convenience the general investigation was divided into different parts; the one in which the order under consideration was entered is Part VI, "Warehousing and Storage of Property by Carriers at the Port of New York." The particular practices affected by the order were brought to the attention of the Commission by complaints of warehouse operators in the New York district that warehouses owned or controlled by the carriers were being operated contrary to the Interstate Commerce Act. Full reports of the investigation into the practices complained of were made by the Commission on December 12, 1933,*fn7 and June 8, 1936.*fn8 The first report terminated in an admonition; the second report was followed by an order

[ 305 U.S. Page 515]

     which never became effective. This order was superseded by the Commission's order of February 2, 1937, in controversy here. This last order was entered by the Commission upon reconsideration of its former reports.*fn9 The Commission postponed its effective date until the injunction was brought and the lower court has entered an order for a further stay pending the determination of the appeal to this Court.

While the issues here are matters of law depending on whether admitted facts support the order, it will be helpful for an understanding of the basis of our opinion to have summarized the underlying facts found by the lower court.

The railroads affected by the order are The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey, The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company, Erie Railroad Company, Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, The New York Central Railroad Company and The Pennsylvania Railroad Company. All are subject to the Interstate Commerce Act. As common carriers they operate lines of railroad extending in a generally westward direction from the Port of New York district to various western points and compete each with the others for domestic and foreign commerce to and from the district. All united in the petition to enjoin the enforcement of the order. Their petition named as defendant the United States of America. The Interstate Commerce Commission and the Warehousemen's Protective Committee intervened. Later, orders were entered allowing the intervention of the American Warehousemen's Association, Merchandise Division; the Boston Port Authority; and the City of Boston.

It was the practice of these carriers to furnish to shippers in the Port of New York area the storage, handling and insurance which were under investigation. On account

[ 305 U.S. Page 516]

     of the high price and great demand for storage space in the wholesale and retail business locations of New York, dealers must store their surplus stocks in low-rent sections. To serve those merchants who do not have their own warehouse facilities, numerous companies not affiliated with the carriers are engaged in the commercial warehouse business in the immediate vicinity of New York. Their business, like the warehouse businesses owned or operated by or affiliated with the carriers, not only covers the storage of goods but its handling in and out of cars and ships with all the incidental services connected therewith such as the issuance of warehouse receipts, inspection, cooperage, marking, and weighing.

Neither the complaints of the competitors of the carriers in the warehousing business nor the terms of the Commission's order are directed at the involuntary storage of goods incidental to transportation. This is the period before or after shipment during which goods occupy cars or floors without any charge above the strictly transportation rate. The warehousing practices complained of are those in connection with accessorial services of the carriers, accurately designated commercial warehousing. Examples of such services are the storage and other warehousing services furnished by the carriers or their affiliates or subsidiaries, to enable shippers to hold and handle their commodities beyond the time allowed by transportation rates and in ways not required by rail movement itself. All of the carriers "now generally store freight on piers owned or leased by them and in warehouses operated by affiliated or subsidiary companies." This business is carried on in various ways. Some carriers lease space to shippers for warehousing; ...

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