« ForrigeFortsett »
found the rule was, in itself, for any reason illegal as a violation of the act, the order might be valid and be a lawful order, although the Commission gave a wrong reason for making it. If it held that the rule to be a violation of one section, the order to desist might be valid, if, instead of the section named by the Commission, the court should find that the rule was a violation of another section of the act. All the facts being brought out before the Commission or the court, the court could decide whether the order was a lawful one, without being confined to the reasons stated by the Commission. We therefore look to see the ground taken by the Circuit Court.
That court found that the rule was adopted to uphold their published rates, or in other words to maintain the rates on the joint through tariff. Although, under the previous through rate tariff, these rates had been secretly cut by the eastern connections of the initial carriers, yet when the routing rule was agreed to as part of the through rate tariff these rebates ceased. Hence, as the court said, the purpose of the rule was undoubtedly to maintain the through rate tariff, and that it was effectual. But the court held, as a result, that this routing provision, being part of the through rate tariff, agreed to by the various eastern roads, made a contract among those roads for the pooling of freights on competing railroads within the meaning of section 5 of the Commerce Act. It held that it was not necessary in order to form a pool, in violation of that section, that the contract or agreement should fix the percentages of freight the several railroads were to receive, or that the railroads should know in advance what the percentages should be; that it was sufficient to constitute a pool if the contract or agreement provided for special means or agencies for apportioning freights, which would destroy the rivalry which would otherwise exist between the competing railroads; and an agreement by which the apportionment was left to the will of the initial carrier accomplished that purpose as effectually as though definite percentages were fixed in the contract; that defendants' plan to maintain through rates
through the operation of the routing rule necessarily destroyed competition, and the adoption of the routing rule put the shippers in a position where their patronage could not possibly be competed for by the defendants' eastern connections.
Thus the mere fact that the initial carrier was granted by this through tariff agreement the right to route the freight was held to result in the formation of a pool, in violation of the fifth section of the act. There was no other agreement proved in the case. It is stated by the Commission that the shipments are forwarded by the initial carrier so as to give certain percentages of the traffic to connecting lines. At the same time the Commission finds that initial carriers generally comply with the requests of the shippers to route the freight as desired. The substance of the report of the Commission is, therefore, that there is a certain percentage of the traffic given the connecting carriers when there is no request for routing given by the shippers. It amounts to the giving of fair treatment to the connecting carriers. It is true the Commission calls this a tonnage pool between the connecting carriers, to which the initial carriers give effect by their routing arrangement, and that its object was not so much to prevent rebates, which was but an incident, as to effect the tonnage division. We are of opinion, however, that the evidence is substantially one way, and that is that the arrangement for routing was to break up rebating, and that it has been accomplished. The evidence before the Circuit Court was to the effect that there was no agreement whatever with the eastern connections that any of them should have any particular proportion of the freight, but the eastern roads entered into the routing agreement because they were satisfied that it would be better than the then present practice of rebating, and they thought that they would get a fair share of the business, or, in other words, would be fairly treated by the initial carriers, who gave them to understand that they would be so treated. The tonnage pool was, as the witnesses said, a myth, and it was testified to that there was not one of the eastern
companies that knew what percentage of the whole business that company secured. They simply knew that the through rates were maintained under the operation of the routing agreement and that rebating ceased, and they were satisfied with the manner of their treatment by the initial carrier.
The Circuit Court, in order to arrive at its result, necessarily treated the connecting carriers as rival and competing transportation lines for this freight, and assumed that between these lines there would exist, but for the routing agreement, a competition for the fruit transportation which could not be extinguished by any agreement as to routing, as a condition for making through tariff rates; that as competition was destroyed by this rule, it was idle to say that such result was not intended by the defendant, and so it was held that the carrying out of the routing agreement violated the act.
We think these various roads were really not competing roads within the meaning of the fifth section of the Commerce Act, when the facts are carefully examined. That act recognizes the right of the carriers to agree upon and provides for the publication of joint through tariff rates between continuous roads, on such terms as the roads may choose to make, provided, of course, the rates are reasonable and no discrimination, or other violation of the act is practiced. The initial carrier did not, on its line, reach the eastern markets, but it reached various connecting railroads which did reach those markets. The initial carrier had the right to enter into an agreement for joint through rates, with all or any one of these connecting companies, though such companies were competing ones among themselves. And the agreements could be made upon such terms as the various companies might think expedient, provided they were not in violation of any other provision of the act.
Prior to the adoption of the routing rule these connecting railroads were already acting under a through rate tariff which continued up to the time when the agreement for the routing was adopted. When so acting it was no longer possible to
compete with each other as to rates (and it is upon the rebates as to rates that this whole controversy is foundeci), provided the companies fulfilled their joint rate tariff agreements. The only way the rate competition could exist under the through rate tariff was by violating the law. This, unfortunately, was habitually done, and during that time the competition consisted in a rivalry between these roads, as to which would be the greatest violator of the law by giving the greatest rebates.
In truth, the only way in which these connecting lines could legally become competing railroads for this California fruit trade would be in the absence of all joint tariff rate agreements. The moment they made such agreements, and carried them out, rate competition would cease.
All that would be needed for the total suppression of rate competition among the connecting railroads would be the honest fulfillment of their agreement as to joint through rates. And just here is where they failed and where they violated their agreement and the law by granting rebates, or, in other words, by competing, as to rates, for the freight in violation of the joint rates. In such case we do not see any violation of the pooling section of the act, by putting in the agreement for joint through rates the provision for routing by the initial carrier. It achieved its purpose and stopped rebating, although it thereby also stopped rate competition which, in the presence of the through rate tariff, was already illegal. The railroads are no longer rate competing roads after the adoption of a through rate tariff by them, and they have no right to privately reduce their rates.
Now, while the most important, if not the only, effect of the routing agreement is to take away this rebating practice, and to hold all parties to that agreement as part of the joint through rate tariff, we think no case is made out of a violation of the pooling provision in the fifth section of the act, even where the initial carrier promises fair treatment to the connecting roads, and carries out such promises.
We must remember the general purpose of the act which is,
as has been said, to obtain fair treatment for the public from the roads, and reasonable charges for the transportation of freight and the honest performance of duty, with no improper or unjust preference or discrimination. Under such circumstances, the court ought not to adopt such a strict and unnecessary construction of the act as thereby to prevent an honest and otherwise perfectly legal attempt to maintain joint through rates, by destroying one of the worst abuses known in the transportation business. The effort to maintain the published through joint tariff rates is entirely commendable.
We think that the agreement in question, upon its face, does not violate any provision of the Commerce Act, and there is no evidence in the case which shows that in fact there has been any such violation.
The decree of the Circuit Court is reversed and the case remanded with instructions to dismiss the bill.
200 U. S.
CHICAGO, BURLINGTON AND QUINCY RAILWAY COMPANY . PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS ex rel. DRAINAGE COMMISSIONERS.
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS.
No. 157. Argued December 14, 1905.-Decided March 5, 1906.
The failure of the state court to pass on the Federal right or immunity specially set up of record, is not conclusive, but this court will decide the Federal question if the necessary effect of the judgment is to deny a Federal right or immunity specially set up or clained, and which, if recognized and enforced, would require a judgment different from one resting upon some ground of local or general law.
Under the laws of Illinois the draining of bodies of land so as to make them fit for human habitation and cultivation, is a public purpose, to accomplish which the State may by appropriate agencies exert the general