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U.S. Supreme Court

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. United States, 284 U.S. 248 (1932)

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. United States

No. 287

Argued December 3, 4, 1931

Decided January 4, 1932

284 U.S. 248


1. Pursuant to the "Hoch-Smith Resolution," of January 20, 1925, c. 120, 43 Stat. 801, the Interstate Commerce Commission made a general investigation of rate structures in the Western District, including those on grain. Exhaustive hearings, productive of a very voluminous record, were closed in September, 1928. Later, the Commission made its order, prescribing maximum rates on grain and grain products, the effective date of which was postponed from time to time. In February, 1931, before the order became effective, the carriers petitioned for a reopening of the case, setting up in detail, and offering to prove, that, since the closing of the record, in 1928, economic changes had seriously impaired their earnings and their credit; that the order would reduce their revenues greatly, and regardless of the question of its validity and propriety when made, it would no longer be valid and proper in the existing circumstances, and would threaten the maintenance of an adequate system of transportation. They insisted upon the reopening as a right guaranteed to them not only by the Act of Congress, but by the Constitution itself.


(1) The petition was not an ordinary petition for rehearing, but was of the nature of a supplemental bill, presenting a new and radically different situation, which had supervened since the record before the Commission had been closed. P. 284 U. S. 259.

(2) The Court takes judicial notice of the economic depression amounting to a changed economic level, severely affecting the railroads, which has come about since the Commission closed its hearings in this case in September, 1928, and of the existence of this depression in February, 1931, when the carriers' petition was filed. P. 284 U. S. 260.

(3) Denial of the petition exceeded the permitted range of the Commission's discretion, and cannot be sustained. P. 284 U. S. 262.

2. While, in fixing future rates, the Commission doubtless must act upon the conditions disclosed in the record before it, and cannot accurately provide for future fluctuations, this does not justify denial of a petition to reopen a case when overruling economic forces have produced a new economic level to which the record before the Commission is irresponsive. P. 284 U. S. 261. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 284 U. S. 249

3. The prospect that the hearing before the Commission may be long does not justify its denial if the hearing be required by the essential demands of justice. P. 284 U. S. 262.

4. The legal standards governing the Commission in determining the reasonableness of rates were not altered by the "Hoch-Smith Resolution," and a fair hearing is a fundamental requirement. Id.

51 F.2d 510 reversed.

Appeal from a decree denying applications for a preliminary injunction to restrain the enforcement of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 284 U. S. 254

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