GREAT NORTHERN RY. CO. v. STATE OF MINN. EX REL. R.R. & WAREHOUSE(1915)
[238 U.S. 340, 341] Messrs. E. C. Lindley and Sanford H. E. Freund for plaintiff in error.
[238 U.S. 340, 342] Mr. Lyndon A. Smith, Attorney General of Minnesota, and Mr. Alonzo J. Edgerton for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice McReynolds delivered the opintion of the court:
An order of the Minnesota Railroad & Warehouse Commission (October 26, 1911) directing the Great Northern Railway Company to erect within forty- five days at least a 6-ton scale in its stockyard at the village Bertha, Todd county, was sustained by the supreme court of the state (122 Minn. 55, 57, 58, 141 N. W. 1102); the cause is here by writ of error; and it is contended that enforcement of order, as promulgated, would deprive the railway of its property without due process of law, contrary to the inhibition of the 14th Amendment. The supreme court said:
Manifestly, if the order is enforced plaintiff in error's property will be taken. Whether this would be without due process of law depends upon the special circumstances.
The applicable principles were announced in Washington ex rel. Oregon R. & Nav. Co. v. Fairchild, 224 U.S. 510, 524 , 56 S. L. ed. 863, 868, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 535. A taking of railroad property under administrative regulation must 'be tested by considering whether, in view of all the facts, the taking was arbitrary and unreasonable, or was justified by the public necessities which the carrier could lawfully be compelled to meet.' The facts being established, the question then presented is whether, as matter of law, they are adequate to support a finding of requisite public necessity,-the mere declaration of a commission is not conclusive. Interstate Commerce Commission v. Louisville & N. R. Co. 227 U.S. 88, 91 , 57 S. L. ed. 431, 433, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 185; Florida East Coast R. Co. v. United States, 234 U.S. 167, 185 , 58 S. L. ed. 1267, 1271, 34 Sup. Ct. Rep. 867.
It appears from the supreme court's findings that 6-ton scales installed by the railway at 54 of its 259 stock-shipping stations in Minnesota were not used in transactions between carrier and shippers. All witnesses declared these instruments had no direct part in transportation or selling at terminal yards, but were convenient in stock dealings, and a station possessing one had an advantage over the place where none existed.
The business of a railroad is transportation, and to supply the public with conveniences not connected therewith is no part of its ordinary duty. The obvious purpose of the challenged order was to enforce installation at Bertha [238 U.S. 340, 346] of a scale like those at Eagle Bend and Hewitt, and dedicated to same use. Under admitted facts, unless justified by alleged unlawful discrimination, we think this was an arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of power. It is no answer to say, as counsel do, that the Commission has 'general authority to require railroad companies to supply the necessary demands of the public along transportation lines; that it has a right to require the company to build and maintain such facilities as are necessary for the public needs.' The demands upon a carrier which lawfully may be made are limited by its duty, and the present record conclusively shows the required structure had no direct relation thereto. See New Mexico Wool Growers' Asso. v. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co. -- N. M. --, 145 Pac. 1077
The railway company does not presently controvert the finding that scales at Eagle Bend and Hewitt brought about discrimination, but maintains the Commission acted arbitrarily and unreasonably in seeking to eliminate this by peremptorily requiring construction of another without giving opportunity to accomplish the same result through discontinuing the use of those already installed. This contention is sound and must be sustained. Conceding power to inhibit discrimination, the Commission could not exercise it unreasonably by needlessly taking property, or, what comes to the same thing, obliging incurrence of expense wholly unnecessary. It by no means follows, simply because a railroad voluntarily supplies a convenience at some stations which attracts trade, that it can be commanded positively to do likewise at other places along the line. A railroad's possessions are subject to its public duty; but beyond this and within charter limits, like other owners of private property, it may control its own affairs. Discontinuing the use of existing scales would abate the alleged discrimination and probably entail little, if any, outlay. The Commission's order precluded [238 U.S. 340, 347] use of this method to bring about lawful conditions, and therein, we think, was plainly arbitrary and unreasonable. Missouri P. R. Co. v. Nebraska, 164 U.S. 403, 417 , 41 S. L. ed. 489, 495, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 130; Donovan v. Pennsylvania Co. 199 U.S. 279, 293 , 50 S. L. ed. 192, 199, 26 Sup. Ct. Rep. 91; Missouri P. R. Co. v. Nebraska, 217 U.S. 196, 206 , 54 S. L. ed. 727, 731, 30 Sup. Ct. Rep. 461, 18 Ann. Cas. 989.
The judgment of the court below is reversed, and the cause remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.