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U.S. Supreme Court

Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. North Dakota, 250 U.S. 135 (1919)

Northern Pacific Railway Company v. North Dakota

No. 976

Argued May 5, 1919

Decided June 2, 1919

250 U.S. 135


Under the "Federal Control Act" of March 21, 1918, c.25, 40 Stat. 451, railroads taken over and administered under the war power pursuant to the Act of August 29, 1916, c. 418, 39 Stat. 645, and the President's Proclamation of December 26, 1917, are in the full possession and control of the Federal government, and that government is granted the power through the President and the Interstate Commerce Commission to fix the rates on intrastate traffic, superseding the state power over that subject. P. 250 U. S. 148.

The Federal Control Act being an exercise of a complete, exclusive and necessarily paramount federal power (the war power), and its provision for a complete change to federal control being clear and unambiguous, there can be no room for a presumption that state control over intrastate rates was to remain unchanged because it previously existed. P. 250 U. S. 149. Reagan v. Mercantile Trust Co., 154 U. S. 413, distinguished.

Under § 10 of the Federal Control Act, the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission to consider rates, like the power of the President to initiate them, relates to both classes -- intrastate and interstate. P. 250 U. S. 151.

The declaration of § 15 that nothing in the act shall be construed to amend, repeal, impair, or affect the existing laws or powers of the states in relation to taxation or "the lawful police regulations of the several states," except wherein such laws, powers, or regulations may affect the transportation of troops, etc., or "the issue of stocks and bonds," cannot be interpreted as withholding the power to initiate intrastate rates under § 10. Id.

Where the acts of a federal official are sought to be restrained in a state court as invasions of state power, there is jurisdiction, if the claim be not frivolous, to pass upon their legality, although, if chanrobles.com-red

Page 250 U. S. 136

legal, their restraint would affect directly the interest of the United States, which cannot be impleaded, and where the decision is against their legality, this Court, finding it erroneous, has jurisdiction to review the resulting judgment upon the merit. P. 250 U. S. 152.

172 N.W. 324 reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 250 U. S. 141


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