ATLANTIC COAST LINE R. CO. v. FLORIDA EX REL ELLIS(1906)
On December 17, 1903, the railroad commission of the state of Florida, after notice and a hearing, made an order:
The railroad company, plaintiff in error, which was a party to the [203 U.S. 256, 257] proceedings before the commission, not complying with this order, application was made on March 7, 1904, to the supreme court of the state for a writ of mandamus to compel compliance, and on October 19, 1904, the peremptory writ was ordered by that court, as prayed for. 48 Fla. 146, 37 So. 657. Thereupon the railroad company sued out this writ of error.
No special findings of fact were made by the supreme court, but in its opinion it said:
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Mr. John E. Hartridge for plaintiff in error.
[203 U.S. 256, 259] Messrs. J. M. Barrs and W. H. Ellis for defendant in error.
Mr. Justic e Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:
Passing all matters of a local nature, in respect to which the decision of the state court is final, the Federal question is whether the order of the railroad commission, sustained by the supreme court of the state, deprived the company of its property without due process of law, or denied to it the equal protection of the law. The testimony taken before the commission was not preserved, but, by the law of the state, the rates established by such commission are to be taken in all courts as prima facie just and reasonable. Florida Laws 1899, chap. 4700, 8, pp. 76, 82. We start, therefore, with the presumption in favor of the order.
The testimony on the hearing of the application in the supreme court is, however, in the record. That court, in the exercise of its original jurisdiction of mandamus cases, determines questions of fact as well as of law. State ex rel. Columbia County v. Suwannee County, 21 Fla. 1. [203 U.S. 256, 260] While it did not make any distinct findings of fact, yet its deductions from the testimony are clearly indicated by the quotations from its opinion. If it be said that, in the absence of special findings of fact, it is the duty of this court to examine the testimony upon which the judgment was entered, it is very clear that there was no sufficient evidence presented to that court to justify a refusal to enforce the order of the railroad commission.
And here we face this situation: The order of the commission was not operative upon all local rates, but only fixed the rate on a single article; to wit, phosphate. There is no evidence of the amount of phosphates carried locally; neither is it shown how much a change in the rate of carrying them will affect the income, nor how much the rate fixed by the railroads for carrying phosphate has been changed by the order of the commission. There is testimony tending to show the gross income from all local freights and the value of the railroad property, and also certain difficulties in the way of transporting phosphates, owing to the lack of facilities at the terminals. But there is nothing from which we can determine the cost of such transportation. We are aware of the difficulty which attends proof of the cost of transporting a single article, and, in order to determine the reasonableness of a rate prescribed, it may sometimes be necessary to accept as a basis the average rate of all transportation per ton per mile. We shall not attempt to indicate to what extent or in what cases the inquiry must be special and limited. It is enough for the present to hold that there is in the record nothing from which a reasonable deduction can be made as to the cost of transportation, the amount of phosphates transported, or the effect which the rate established by the commission will have upon the income. Under these circumstances it is impossible to hold that there was error in the conclusions reached by the Supreme Court of the State of Florida, and its judgment is affirmed.