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Statement of the Case.

series of years, during which, and upon the ground that, the state officers had neglected their duty. If state railivay taxes may be made retroactive for three years, and again for another three years, I see no reason why this method of taxation may not be continued indefinitely so long as any property remains from which it may be collected. This kind of discrimination seems to be measurable only by the rapacity of the legislature.









Nos. 141, 142, 143, 144, 145. Argued January 7, 8, 1901.–Decided January 6, 1902.

By the decrees in these cases, the Railroad Commission of the Common

wealth of Kentucky was enjoined from proceeding to fix rates under a certain act of the General Assembly charged to be unconstitutional, the ground of equity jurisdiction being threatened multiplicity of suits, and

irreparable injury. This court, being of opinion that under the Kentucky statutes the duty of

enforcing the rates it might fix vested in the Railroad Commission, held that none of the alleged consequences could be availed of as threatened before the rates were fixed at all.

These are appeals from the final decrees of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kentucky, perpetually

Statement of the Case.

enjoining Charles C. McChord and others, railroad commissioners of the State of Kentucky, from doing any of the things required by, or from taking any action whatever against complainants under a certain act of the general assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, approved March 10, 1900, c. 2, which is entitled and reads as follows:

“An act to prevent railroad companies or corporations owning and operating a line or lines of railroad and its officers, agents, and employés from charging, collecting, or receiving extortionate freight or passenger rates in this Commonwealth, and to further increase and define the duties and powers of the railroad commission in reference thereto, and prescribing the manner of enforcing the provisions of this act and penalties for the violation of its provisions.

“Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

“Sec. 1. When complaint shall be made to the railroad commission accusing any railroad company or corporation of charging, collecting or receiving extortionate freight or passenger rates over its line or lines of railroad in this Commonwealth, or when said commission shall receive information or have reason to believe that such rate or rates are being charged, collected or received, it shall be the duty of said commission to hear and determine the matter as speedily as possible. They shall give the company or corporation complained of not less than ten days' notice, by letter mailed to an officer or employé of said company or corporation, stating the timo and place of the hearing of same; also the nature of the complaint or matter to be investigated, and shall hear such statements, arguments or evidence offered by the parties as the commission may deem relevant; and should the commission determine that the company or corporation is, or has been, guilty of extortion, said commission shall make and fix a just and reasonable rate, toll or compensation which said railroad company or corporation may charge, collect or receive for like services thereafter rendered. The rate, toll or compensation so fixed by the commission shall be entered and be an order on the record book of their office and signed by the commission, and a copy thereof

Statement of the Case.

mailed to an officer, agent or employé of the railroad company or corporation affected thereby, and shall be in full force and effect at the expiration of ten days thereafter, and may be revoked or modified by an order likewise entered of record. And should said railroad company or corporation, or any officer, agent or employé thereof charge, collect or receive a greater or higher rate, toll or compensation, for like services thereafter rendered than that made and fixed by said commission, as herein provided, said company or corporation, and said officer, agent or employé shall each be deemed guilty of extortion, and upon conviction, shall be fined for the first offence in any sum not less than five hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, and upon a second conviction, in any sum not less than one thousand dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, and for third and succeeding convictions in any sum not less than two thousand dollars nor more than five thousand dollars.

“Søc. 2. The circuit court of any county into or through which the line or lines of road carrying such passenger or freight, owned or operated by said railroad, and the Franklin circuit court, shall have jurisdiction of the offence against the railroad company or corporation offending, and the circuit court of the county where such offence may be committed by said officer, agent or employé, shall have jurisdiction in all prosecutions against said officer, agent or employé.

“Sɛo. 3. Prosecutions under this act shall be by indictment.

“Sec. 4. All prosecutions under this act shall be commenced within two years after the offence shall have been committed.

“ Sec. 5. In making said investigation said commission may, when deemed necessary, take the depositions of witnesses before an examiner or notary public, whose fees shall be paid by the State, and upon the certificate of the chairman of the commission, approved by the governor, the auditor shall draw his warrant upon the treasurer for its payment.”

All the bills sought the same relief, and their averments, excepting those in respect of alleged contracts with the State in relation to rates set up in the bills of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company and of the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway Company, were in substance the same.

Statement of the Case.

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The act of March 10, 1900, was set out in full ; its provisions recapitulated; and complainants' view of the legal effect thereof given. The third paragraph was: “All of your orator's rates charged, collected or received within the State of Kentucky are just and reasonable and have not been sufficient for many years to give it a fair return upon the reasonable value of its investment, notwithstanding it has at all times operated its property with the strictest economy and in the most skillful manner.”

It was then averred that it was the duty of the railroad commission to see that the laws relating to all railroads, except street, were faithfully executed, and to exercise a general supervision over the railroads of the State; that its functions were administrative; that it was not established as a court; and that under the state constitution it could not be permitted to exercise judicial powers. That all common carriers were subject only to the requirement that their rates should be just and reasonable, and they were in case of controversy entitled to have the judgment of the courts on that question, but that the act referred to singled out railroad corporations and deprived them of any opportunity to have a judicial determination of the reasonableness of their rates when disputed; substituted the non-judicial determination of the railroad commission; and subjected them to penalties, there being no infliction of penalties provided as to other common carriers. That if defendants be permitted to proceed under the act, each complainant “will be compelled to charge the rates fixed by them without any opportunity for a judicial investigation and determination as to their reasonableness, and it will thus be deprived of the law. ful use of its property and in substance and effect of its property itself without due process of law, and will also be denied the equal protection of the laws, in violation of section 1 of article 14 of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States."

It was further averred that the act was in conflict with clause 3 of section 8 of article I of the Constitution of the United States, giving Congress the exclusive power to regulate commerce among the States, and with the acts of Congress in that behalf.

Statement of the Case.

The bills then continued :

“And defendants have called for and obtained from your orator a list of rates fixed and charged by it for transportation of freight and passengers over its railroads in the State of Kentucky for the purpose of considering whether or not they shall be altered and reduced in accordance with the terms of said act, and are giving it out in speeches and interviews that they intend to proceed at once under said act, and unless restrained by the order of this court defendants will proceed at once to hear and determine complaints under said act, although the same is in contravention of the Constitution of the United States in all the particulars hereinabove set out, and is therefore null and void, and will proceed thereupon to reduce your orator's rates to such as they think your orator should charge, and will thereafter at pleasure modify and still further reduce the rates so fixed, and if your orator does not observe the rates so fixed, no matter how unjustly and unreasonably low, your orator will be subjected to innumerable prosecutions throughout the State of Kentucky for failing to comply with such rates fixed in this unconstitutional manner, and it will be subjected to innumerable suits by consignors and consignees, who will claim the right to ship at said rates so unconstitutionally fixed and to sue for any excess they may be charged over said rates, though rightfully charged, and at the same time all your orator's officers and agents and servants, though perfectly innocent of any offence and though merely assisting your orator to maintain its constitutional rights, will be indicted, prosecuted, and heavily fined, to the great demoralization of the public service which your orator is bound to render, and so it is, unless .said defendants are restrained by the order of this court from proceeding under said act, your orator's contract rights will be impaired, it will be deprived of its property without due process of law, denied the equal protection of the law, and subjected to great and irreparable wrong and injury and to a vast multiplicity of prosecutions and actions in the courts of said State.”

The cases were disposed of on demurrer. The constitution of the State of Kentucky provided : $ 209. Railroad commission-Number-Qualifications

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