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06/18/82 Southern Railway Company, v. Ional Commerce Commission

June 18, 1982

SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, PETITIONER

v.

INTERNATIONAL COMMERCE COMMISSION AND UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENTS FAMILY LINES RAIL SYSTEM, INTERVENOR



Before: WALD and GINSBURG, Circuit Judges, and GESELL,* United States District Judge for the District of Columbia.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT 1982.CDC.156

Petition for Review of an Order of the Interstate Commerce Commission

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WALD

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge WALD.

WALD, Circuit Judge: This battle between two of the Southeast's most successful railroads requires us to determine how a participant in joint rates*fn1 may cancel its participation in those rates. Intervenor Family Lines Rail System canceled certain joint rates with petitioner Southern Railway (Southern) by filing an amended tariff in September 1981. Respondent Interstate Commerce Commission accepted the amended tariff for filing and refused to suspend or investigate it. *fn2 Southern contended before the agency and now contends before this court that the ICC was required by both 49 U.S.C.A. § 10705a (West Spec. Pamph. 1982) *fn3 (added by Staggers Rail Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96-448, 217(a), 94 Stat. 1895, 1916-24) and pre-Staggers Act law to suspend and investigate FLS's tariff. The ICC, however, rejected Southern's construction of the governing statutes. Family Lines Rail System -- Unilateral Cancellation of Joint Rates, 365 I.C.C. 464 (1981). We agree with the ICC's statutory construction and, under well-established law, have no power to review the ICC's discretionary decision not to suspend the tariff. Accordingly, we affirm. II. BACKGROUND

On September 8, 1981, FLS filed a tariff purporting to cancel numerous joint rates with Southern. The tariff, which was to become effective twenty days later, was filed without Southern's concurrence or acceptance, and in fact Southern vigorously protested the joint-rate cancellations in a petition filed with the ICC on October 12, 1981. *fn4 Southern's petition demonstrated that, on many of the joint rates it sought to cancel, FLS was receiving revenues of at least 110% of its variable costs.Southern argued that upon such a demonstration the ICC was required by 49 U.S.C. § 10705a(c) to reject or at least suspend FLS's tariff. The statute cited by Southern provides, in relevant part:

(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, any prior agreement in effect on the effective date of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, or any requirement of the Commission, a rail carrier may cancel the application of a joint rate to a through route in which it participates, without the concurrence of any other rail carrier that is a party to such joint rate, unless another rail carrier that participates in such through route . . . makes the demonstration described in paragraph (2) of this subsection.

(2) The application of a joint rate to a through route may not be canceled under this subsection if a rail carrier that participates in such through route . . . demonstrates to the Commission that the canceling carrier's share of the revenues, under the joint rate in effect at the time the application of the joint rate is canceled, is equal to or greater than --

110 percent of the canceling carrier's variable cost of providing service over such route. . . .

. . .

(4) If the demonstration described in paragraph (2) is made . . . the tariff canceling the joint rate shall be considered by the Commission in accordance with section 10705 of this title. The existing joint rate . . . shall remain in effect during the pendency of the Commission's consideration.

In response, FLS, although taking issue with some of Southern's calculations, admitted it was receiving 110% of variable costs over many of the routes in question. FLS urged, however, that this was irrelevant, for it claimed it was not proceeding under section 10705a, and therefore section 10705(c) (2) by its own exlicit terms *fn5 did not apply. Instead, FLS argued, its cancellation of joint rates was subject to the ICC's discretionary power, set out in 49 U.S.C. § 10707, *fn6 to investigate and suspend the cancellation. Should the ICC suspend the tariff for investigation, FLS would have the burden of proving that cancellation was consistent with the public interest. 49 U.S.C. § 10705(e). *fn7

On October 21, 1981, the ICC Suspension Board announced by telephone that it had decided not to suspend or investigate the challenged tariff. Southern filed its petition for review in this court, together with a motion for stay pending review, the next day. Simultaneously, Southern sought administrative review from Division 1 of the ICC, which affirmed the Suspension Board's decision. We granted a temporary stay pending receipt of a response to the stay motion from the ICC. On November 4, 1981, we vacated our temporary stay, and FLS's joint-rate cancellations took effect on November 5. Southern continued to seek administrative relief, petitioning the ICC Chairman on November 9 to place the matter before the entire ICC.The ICC rejected Southern's arguments in a written opinion rendered December 15 and served December 17.

The ICC reasoned that nothing in the Interstate Commerce Act required carriers canceling joint rates to obtain the consent of other carriers participating in the joint rates. Like most tariffs, therefore, joint-rate-cancellation tariffs were subject to the ICC's discretionary power under section 10707 to suspend or not to suspend. Section 10705a mandated suspension in the circumstances set out in that section, stated the ICC, only if the canceling carrier had elected to proceed under that section, ...


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