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SPILLER v. ATCHISON

May 17, 1920

SPILLER
v.
ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY

SPILLER
v.
CHICAGO & EASTERN ILLINOIS RAILROAD COMPANY

SPILLER
v.
CHICAGO & ALTON RAILROAD COMPANY

SPILLER
v.
MISSOURI PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY

SPILLER
v.
ST. LOUIS, IRON MOUNTAIN & SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY

SPILLER
v.
ST. LOUIS & SAN FRANCISCO RAILROAD COMPANY

SPILLER
v.
CHICAGO, ROCK ISLAND & PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY

SPILLER
v.
ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY.

SPILLER
v.
MISSOURI, KANSAS & TEXAS RAILWAY COMPANY



ERROR AND CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Pitney

[ 253 U.S. Page 120]

 MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.

Plaintiff in error commenced an action against defendants in error jointly in the District Court of the United States for the Western District of Missouri under § 16 of the Act to Regulate Commerce as amended (Act of February 4, 1887, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379, 384; June 29, 1906, c. 3591, 34 Stat. 584, 590; June 18, 1910, c. 309, 36 Stat. 539, 554), to recover certain amounts awarded to him against them respectively in a reparation order made by the Interstate Commerce Commission January 12, 1914. His petition contained also a count setting up a conspiracy between defendants for the restraint of interstate commerce, and claiming treble damages under § 7 of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of July 2, 1890, c. 647, 26 Stat. 209, 210; but this was abandoned at the trial. Defendants having filed separate answers, a jury was waived by stipulation, and a test case tried before the court -- all defendants participating -- with the result that a decision was rendered in favor of plaintiff, pursuant to which a combined judgment was entered, amounting in effect to as many judgments as there were defendants, each for the amount of the Commission's award against the particular defendant with interest and attorneys' fees. Defendants sued out separate writs of error from the Circuit Court of Appeals, where, by stipulation, the cases were heard together upon a single record. That court reversed the judgments, ordered the cause remanded to the District Court with directions to grant a new trial (246 Fed. Rep. 1), and refused an application for a rehearing (249 Fed. Rep. 677). Writs of error were prayed for and allowed for the review of the judgments of reversal in this court; and afterwards but in due season a petition for the allowance of a writ of certiorari was filed, the consideration of which was postponed to the hearing under the writs of error.

The jurisdiction of the District Court having been invoked

[ 253 U.S. Page 121]

     not because of diversity of citizenship but because the suit was one arising under laws of the United States other than those particularly mentioned in § 128, Judicial Code, as amended (Act of January 28, 1915, c. 22, § 2, 38 Stat. 803), it follows that the judgments were not made "final" by the section referred to, and, if final in the sense of concluding the litigation, would be reviewable in this court by writ of error pursuant to § 241, Judicial Code, in each case where the matter in controversy exceeds one thousand dollars besides costs. In the cases of the Chicago & Alton and the Missouri Pacific Companies, the respective judgments with interest up to the issuance of the writs of error from this court were materially less than one thousand dollars; in each of the other cases substantially in excess of that amount; the aggregate of the judgments being more than $150,000. For want of a sufficient amount in controversy the two smaller judgments would not be reviewable here by writ of error even were they final in effect; but all the writs of error must be dismissed because the judgments call for further proceedings in the trial court; it being elementary that this writ will lie to review final judgments only. McLish v. Roff, 141 U.S. 661, 665; Luxton v. North River Bridge Co., 147 U.S. 337, 341; Heike v. United States, 217 U.S. 423, 429.

However, upon consideration of the particular circumstances of the case, we have concluded that a writ of certiorari ought to be allowed, without further protracting the litigation to the extent that would be necessary in order to reach final judgments; the transcript of the record and proceedings returned in obedience to the writs of error to stand as the return to the writ of certiorari. This writ is allowable by virtue of § 240, Judicial Code, (derived from § 6 of the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 517, 26 Stat. 826, 828) in the case of the two smaller judgments, because the decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals is made final by the combined effect of §§ 128 and 241; and in the case of

[ 253 U.S. Page 122]

     the larger judgments it is allowable under § 262 of the Code (§ 716, Rev. Stats.), in aid of the ultimate jurisdiction of this court to review those cases by writs of error. Lau Ow Bew v. United States, 144 U.S. 47, 58; In re Chetwood, 165 U.S. 443, 462; Whitney v. Dick, 202 U.S. 132, 135; McClellan v. Carland, 217 U.S. 268, 277, et seq.; United States v. Beatty, 232 U.S. 463, 467; Meeker v. Lehigh Valley R.R. Co., 234 U.S. 749; 236 U.S. 412, 417.

Coming to the merits: The ground upon which the Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judgments, and the ground principally relied upon to sustain its decision, was the refusal by the trial court of a motion made by defendants to hold: (a) That upon all the evidence plaintiff was not entitled to recover against any or all of the defendants; and (b) that there was not sufficient evidence before the Commission to sustain its order of reparation. The latter is the substantial question actually presented.

The course of proceedings at the trial, as appears from the bill of exceptions, was as follows: Plaintiff introduced the report of the Interstate Commerce Commission (unreported opinion No. A-583 in case No. 732, Cattle Raisers' Association of Texas v. Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. Co., dated January 12, 1914), and the order of reparation made pursuant to it and upon which the action was based. Defendants having admitted the service of the order, and that the money awarded had not been paid, plaintiff rested. The report makes an award in favor of Spiller, plaintiff in error, as assignee of a large number of claims for reparation by reason of excessive rates charged by the respective carriers on interstate shipments of cattle from points of origin in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas, to destinations at Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, St. Joseph, and New Orleans, on various dates between August 29, 1906, and November 17, 1908; and a further award to named shippers in the case of certain unassigned claims pertaining to similar shipments; the

[ 253 U.S. Page 123]

     several claims, assigned and unassigned, with distinguishing marks, being set forth in Appendix A, showing the delivering carriers against which the claims were allowed and, in each case, the consignor, points of origin and destination, number of cars shipped, weight, rate paid, the lower rate sanctioned by the Commission, amount of refund required, and the interest thereon. The report contains appropriate findings adequate to support the award, among them the following: That the persons named in Appendix A as consignors shipped from the points of origin to the points of destination specified, by the line of road named as the "delivering road," the number of cars and of the aggregate net weight stated; that the shippers paid to the delivering carriers freight upon the shipments at certain rates named; that in each instance this rate was unreasonable and excessive, and a reasonable rate to have been charged would have been the lower rate specified as having been subsequently established by the Commission, and that therefore the delivering carriers collected from the shippers unreasonable charges on account of the shipments in amounts named in the column headed "Amount of Refund"; that the shipments of live stock were in all cases consigned to some person at the delivering market, usually a commission firm; that the freight was paid in the first instance by the "consignor" (evidently a misprint for "consignee") to the delivering carrier, and subsequently the cattle were sold upon the market and the amount of the freight deducted from the purchase price, remittance being made for the balance, so that in all cases the owner and shipper of the cattle finally paid the transportation charges; and that by the unreasonable exactions of the carriers the shippers were damaged in the amounts stated in the appropriate column of Appendix A, since they received for the cattle less by those amounts than they would have received had the rate found reasonable been charged; that in the case of

[ 253 U.S. Page 124]

     some of the claims the shippers made assignments to H. E. Crowley, then being secretary of the Cattle Raisers' Association, in a form set forth in the report; that subsequently Crowley ceased to be such secretary, and was succeeded by Spiller, the plaintiff, to whom Crowley assigned all claims previously assigned to him; and that other specified claims were assigned by the shippers to Spiller after he became secretary, the form of assignment being the same as that previously employed.

Defendants, endeavoring to show the insufficiency of the evidence upon which the findings and order of the Commission were based, introduced a transcript of the stenographer's notes of the testimony taken upon the hearing of the reparation claims; following this by introducing a sample page taken from one of the exhibits introduced before the Commission as illustrative of the form of exhibits there introduced. After other evidence not necessary to be mentioned, and a request for judgment in favor of defendants, and for certain rulings on points of law that would have produced that result, all of which were refused, the case was closed.

It appears that in February, 1904, the Cattle Raisers' Association of Texas, in behalf of its members and of others interested, petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission under § 13 of the Commerce Act, alleging the rates in force in the territory in question to be unjust and unreasonable, they having been advanced some time before to the extent (in most cases) of 3 cents per hundred pounds. On August 16, 1905, the Commission held (Cattle Raisers' Association of Texas v. Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. Co., 11 I.C.C. 296, 352) that the then existing rates were unjust and unreasonable by the amount of the advance. At this time the Commission was not empowered to fix rates ...


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