[230 U.S. 513, 514] Messrs. F. B. Enslow, H. Fitzpatrick, H. T. Wickham, and W. E. Chilton for plaintiff in error.
[230 U.S. 513, 519] Mr. William G. Conley, Attorney General of West Virginia, for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice Hughes delivered the opinion of the court:
The suit was brought by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company in the circuit court for Kanawha county, West Virginia, against William G. Conley, attorney general of the state of West Virginia, and the prosecuting attorneys of several counties in the state, to enjoin the enforcement of the act of the legislature of West Virginia, passed February 21, 1907 ( Acts 1907, chap. 41), fixing the maximum fare for passengers on railroads, as described, at 2 cents a mile.
The state court sustained the act and this writ of error is brought.
The act provides:
The questions presented are thus stated by the plaintiff in error:
While the plaintiff in error was entitled to a fair opportunity to test the constitutional validity of the prescribed rate, and penal provisions operating to preclude such an opportunity would be invalid (Ex parte Youg, 209 U.S. 123 , 52 L. ed. 714, 13 L.R.A.(N.S.) 932, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 441, 14 Ann Cas. 764), it is clear that the provisions for penalties of the statute in euqestion, aside from their separable character, are not open to this objection, in the light of the construction placed upon them by the state court. In construing the act, the supreme court of appeals of West Virginia held:
Under this ruling, it does not appear that the company is in a position to attack the validity of the act by reason of its penal provisions. It has had its opportunity in court, and if the act be otherwise valid, it may avoid penalties hereafter by complying with it. Further, as was said in Western U. Teleg. Co. v. Richmond, 224 U.S. 160, 172 , 56 S. L. ed. 710, 717, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 449: 'If an oppressive application of them should be attempted, it will be time enough then for the appellant to file its bill.'
Nor can it be said that the classification of the act is an unreasonable or arbitrary one. In Dow v. Beidelman, 125 U.S. 680 , 31 L. ed. 841, 2 Inters. Com. Rep. 56, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1028, the statute under consideration classified railroads with respect to passenger fares, as follows: 'On lines of railroad 15 miles or less in length, 8 cents per mile. On lines over 15 miles in length, and less than 75 miles in length, 5 cents. On lines over 75 miles in length, 3 cents per mile.' The court, in sustaining the statute, said: 'The legislature, in the exercise of its power of regulating fares and freights, may classify the railroads according to the amount of the business which they have done or appear likely to do. Whether the classification shall be according to the amount of passengers and freight carried, or of gross or net earnings, during a previous year, or according to the simpler and more constant test of the length of the line of the railroad, is a matter within the discretion of the [230 U.S. 513, 523] legislature. If the same rule is applied to all railroads of the same class, there is no violation of the constitutional provision securing to all the equal protection of the laws.' (p. 691.)
Again, in Chicago, R. I. & P. R. Co. v. Arkansas, 219 U.S. 453 , 55 L. ed. 290, 31 Sup. Ct. Rep. 275, the court sustained the statute of that state, which, in providing for the number of men to be employed in the operation of freight trains, excluded from its application railroads less than 50 miles in length. The principles governing the decision of a question of this sort have been so frequently stated that repetition is unnecessary. Magoun v. Illinois Trust & Sav. Bank, 170 U.S. 283, 294 , 42 S. L. ed. 1037, 1043, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 594; Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Melton, 218 U.S. 36 , 52-55, 54 L. ed. 921, 927, 929, -- L.R.A.(N.S.) --, 30 Sup. Ct. Rep. 676; Engel v. O'Malley, 219 U.S. 128 , 55 L. ed. 128, 31 Sup. Ct. Rep. 190; Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co. 220 U.S. 61, 78 , 55 S. L. ed. 369, 377, 31 Sup. Ct. Rep. 337, Ann. Cas. 1912C, 160; Mutual Loan Co. v. Martell, 222 U.S. 225, 232 , 56 S. L. ed. 175, 178, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 74, Ann. Cas. 1913B, 529; Chicago Dock & Canal Co. v. Fraley, 228 U.S. 680 , 57 L. ed. --, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 715.
It is urged, however, that 'control, management, or operation' is made the basis of classification for rate purposes, so that, if a railroad under 50 miles in length be controlled by a railroad of greater length, it would be taken out of the exception, although operated wholly independently, and not in connection with the longer line. This contention is fully met by the construction which the state court has given to the statute. Upon this point that court said that the meaning of the words 'under the control, management, or operation' 'is to be ascertained from the connection in which they are used, the act in which they are found, its context, and the mass of legislation of which they form a part. In form, the expressions are alternative; but, in meaning, they are appositive, signifying the same as the words 'part of.' . . . The suggestion that ownership or control of one railroad by another, when they are not connected and operated together, nor susceptible of such connection and operation, makes them one within the meaning of the act, is like- [230 U.S. 513, 524] wise contrary to the spirit and beyond the scope thereof. Such an interpretation is not within its reason or purpose, and, therefore, not within its meaning. The legislature must be regarded as having passed the act, in view of existing conditions and methods of railroad operation, and with the intent that it should operate in harmony with the spirit and general principles of existing railroad rate legislation, except in so far as the contrary is expressed in terms or by necessary implication. There is not a word here signifying any intent to depart from the general principle embodied in the act of 1873, concerning the entity of a railroad for the purposes of the act. It made into one only such railroads as were operated 'in connection' with one another. Intent to change this settled policy must rest upon something more, in an amendatory act, than mere inference, surmise, or unnecessary implication.' Coal & Coke R. Co. v. Conley, 67 W. Va. 129, 177-179, 67 S. E. 613.
The exception of 'electric lines and street railways' is also made the ground of criticism, but this classification rests upon reasonable and familiar distinctions, long recognized as proper in railroad legislation. Omaha & C. B. Street R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 230 U.S. 324 , 57 L. ed. --, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 890.
The final objection to the statute is that it constitutes an unconstitutional interference with interstate commerce. It must be regarded, however, as prescribing rates exclusively for intrastate traffic, and, as thus construed, it was within the power of the state to enact. The questions presented are substantially the same as those which were considered in Simpson v. Shepard, 230 U.S. 352 , 57 L. ed. --, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 729.
[ Footnote 1 ] Code Supp. 1909, c. 54, 2496a1, 2496a2.