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U.S. Supreme Court

American Express Co. v. Caldwell, 244 U.S. 617 (1917)

American Express Co. v. Caldwell

No. 902

Argued April 13, 1917

Decided June 11, 1917

244 U.S. 617


When the Interstate Commerce Commission finds that interstate rates are unduly discriminatory as compared with competitive intrastate rates and orders that the discrimination be abated, a further finding that the interstate rates are not unreasonable implies an authority to the carrier to maintain them and to raise the competitive intrastate rates to their level.

But findings that such discrimination exists and that the interstate rates are reasonable do not necessarily imply a finding that the intrastate rates are unreasonable; both may be reasonable, and yet produce discrimination, which is a relative matter.

An order of the Interstate Commerce Commission directing carriers to desist from discriminating against interstate commerce by charging lower rates for local competitive intrastate traffic may properly leave to the carriers discretion to determine whether the discrimination shall be removed by lowering the interstate rates, or by raising the intrastate rates, or by doing both.

Where the rates which a carrier seeks to alter, in avoiding the discrimination condemned by the Commission, are intrastate rates which have been fixed by state authority, the Commission's order will justify the carrier only insofar as the order makes definite the territory or places to which it applies.

In cases where the dominant federal authority is exerted to affect intrastate rates, it is desirable that the orders of the Commission should be so definite as to the rates and territory to be affected as to preclude misapprehension.

The territorial scope of the order of the Commission here involved is ascertained (the order being on its face somewhat indefinite) by referring from the order to the report accompanying and made part of it, and thence to the maps of the railroads over which the report states the appellant express companies operate. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 244 U. S. 618

A state law (Laws South Dakota 1911, c. 207, § 10, as amended by Laws, 1913, c. 304) providing that no advance of intrastate rate may be made except after 30 days' notice filed with a board of railroad commissioners, and published, cannot properly apply to changes in intrastate rates which a carrier seeks to make in obedience to an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, to abate discrimination against interstate traffic.

A suit by a state to enjoin carriers from advancing intrastate rates without first complying with state regulations will not be treated as a suit, beyond the jurisdiction of the state court, "to enforce, set aside, annul, or suspend in whole or in part" an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission (see Commerce Court Act, c. 309, 36 Stat. 539), where the Commission's order covers the proposed advances in part only, is not mentioned in the bill, and is not relied on in the answer as justifying them all.

38 S.D. ___ modified and affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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