MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.
An extensive territory in West Virginia comprising the coal mining districts known as New River, Tug River and Pocahontas is served by three railroad systems. Each grants blanket rates to destination from the mines within the district served by it. The blanket rates to each destination are the same on all the systems. Two of them, the Chesapeake & Ohio and the Norfolk & Western, have lines extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Middle West. The line of the third, the Virginian, extends only eastward to tidewater. Some mines in the district are served directly by only one of these railroads, some by more. Ninety-nine mines are located only on the Virginian. Of these 45 enjoy, by reason of the trackage agreements to be described, the same rates to the West as do mines on the Chesapeake & Ohio and on the Norfolk & Western. The remaining 54 are denied the opportunity of reaching the western markets.
Some of the 54 made complaint to the Interstate Commerce Commission that they are denied access to the
The Chesapeake & Ohio did not oppose granting to the 54 mines the relief sought. The Virginian resisted strenuously. The complete record of the proceedings before the Commission occupies 713 pages of the printed record in this Court, besides 67 exhibits, many of them elaborate, one covering 89 pages. The proceedings before the Commission, begun on May 15, 1922, did not close until February, 1923. The proposed report of the examiner was served on April 30, 1924, was submitted to Division 3 of the Commission on June 30, 1924, and its original report was filed on March 10, 1925. The Commission found that the existing rates from the mines in question subjected the shippers to undue prejudice and also that the rates were themselves unreasonable. Wyoming Coal Co. v. Virginian Railway Co., 96 I.C.C. 359; 98 I.C.C.
This suit was brought by the Virginian against the United States, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the Chesapeake & Ohio, in the federal court for the Southern District of West Virginia, to enjoin the enforcement of the order and to set it aside. All three defendants answered, the Chesapeake & Ohio asserting its readiness to comply with the Commission's order. Several coal companies intervened as defendants. The case was heard, on May 28, 1925, before three judges upon application for an interlocutory injunction and also upon final hearing. The order was assailed mainly on the ground that the findings made were unsupported by evidence. It was also contended, among other things, that findings essential to the relief granted had not been made. Besides the full transcript of the proceedings before the Commission, the Virginian introduced, under objection, some additional evidence in support of a claim that the order should be set aside because of certain facts occurring since it was
Before entry of the decree, the Virginian indicated an intention to appeal and asserted that irreparable damage would result, pending the appeal, if the decree should be reversed. Thereupon, the District Court included in the final decree a clause restraining enforcement of the Commission's order pending the perfecting and determination of the appeal. No. 282 is a cross-appeal by the United States and the Commission from so much of the decree as restrains enforcement of the Commission's order pending the appeal. No. 281 is the appeal by the Virginian, under the Act of October 22, 1913, c. 32, 38 Stat. 208, 220, from so much of the decree as denied the injunction and dismissed the bill. The contentions made by the Virginian here seem to be the same that were made by it below; and largely the same that it made before the Interstate Commerce Commission.
First. The Virginian attacks the Commission's finding of unjust discrimination. There clearly was substantial evidence to support every fact specifically found. To consider the weight of the evidence before the Commission, the soundness of the reasoning by which its conclusions were reached, or whether the findings are consistent with those made by it in other cases, is beyond our province. Whether a rate is unjustly discriminatory is a question on which the finding of the Commission, supported by substantial evidence, is conclusive, unless there was some irregularity in the proceeding or some error in the application of rules of law. Western Paper Makers' Chemical Co. v. United States, 271 U.S. 268. No irregularity in the proceedings before the Commission is even suggested.
Second. The Virginian contends that the specific facts found are, as matter of law, insufficient to support the finding of undue prejudice. The facts material are these.
The fact that the Virginian's intention was not to give the 45 mines a preference over others, but to increase its own eastbound business from mines located on the other system, and that the preference resulting is merely an incident of a legitimate effort to develop the carrier's eastbound
Third. The Virginian contends that the evidence before the Commission does not support its finding that the rates on coal from the Virginian's mines via the Chesapeake & Ohio are unreasonable to the extent that they exceed the New River district rates maintained by the latter carrier from mines on its own and connecting lines having no other outlet to the western markets. The argument is that these rates can not be considered standards of reasonableness because, as the Commission declared in the present controversy, they are "the outcome of competitive strain and stress through long periods of development," and, as it had stated in an earlier case, they have been made "in practical, if not absolute, disregard of distance, and all transportation conditions that ordinarily are taken into consideration in the making of rates," and "are below the level at which maximum reasonable rates might be maintained." Bituminous Coal to C.F.A. Territory, 46 I.C.C. 66, 122, 145. The finding of reasonableness, like that of undue prejudice, is a determination of a fact by a tribunal "informed by experience." Illinois Central R.R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 206 U.S. 441, 454. This Court has no concern with the correctness of the
Fourth. The Virginian contends that the order is void because the Commission directed the establishment of through routes and joint rates without finding that they are necessary in the public interest. Such a finding is essential to the validity of an order under § 15(3). But the order here in question was not sought or made under § 15(3) and does not direct the establishment of through routes and joint rates. Through routes to the West were already in existence. And there were through rates by combination. See Through Routes and Through Rates, 12 I.C.C. 163; Memphis Freight Bureau v. Fort Smith & W.R.R. Co., 13 I.C.C. 1, 8; Baer Bros. M. Co. v. Mo. Pac. Ry. Co., 17 I.C.C. 225; Swift & Co. v. Pa. R.R. Co., 29 I.C.C. 464; Lourie M'f'g Co. v. Cincinnati N.R.R. Co., 42 I.C.C. 448; Kansas City Bd. of Trade v. A.T. & S.F. Ry. Co., 69 I.C.C. 185, 188-189; St. Louis Southwestern Ry. v. United States, 245 U.S. 136, 139, note 2. The fact that the combination rates were excessive constituted the only obstacle to the movement. The Chesapeake & Ohio did not oppose the reduction of its rates from the junction to the West. It was willing that these 54 mines on the Virginian should enjoy the rates already open to the other 45. The Virginian resisted a reduction of its local rate to the
Fifth. The Virginian contends that the order should be set aside because of the following facts which occurred after entry of the original order and before the hearing below. An agreement to lease the Virginian to the Norfolk & Western for 999 years was approved by the respective
Sixth. The cross-appeal is directed to so much of the final decree as stays enforcement of the Commission's order pending the appeal. It is settled that the force and effect of a decree of a federal court dismissing a bill and dissolving an interlocutory injunction are not suspended
The latter Act, which abolished the Commerce Court and transferred to the district courts the jurisdiction in this class of cases, requires that applications for an interlocutory injunction to restrain the enforcement of an order of the Commission be heard before three judges; permits the issue by them, or a majority of them, of "a temporary stay or suspension" of the Commission's order for not more than sixty days pending the application for an interlocutory injunction; similarly permits them "at the time of hearing such application . . . [to] continue the temporary stay or suspension . . . until decision
It is clear that this Court, or a justice thereof, has power to grant a stay of the Commission's order pending the appeal. The power was exercised by the full Court in Omaha & Council Bluffs Ry. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 222 U.S. 582, in a case coming from the Commerce Court under the Act of 1910. Whether the district court of three judges under the Act of 1913 possesses like power has never been considered by this Court. The existence of the power was affirmed by a divided district court in Louisville & N.R.R. Co. v. United States, 227 Fed. 273, and the power was exercised to the extent of staying enforcement of the Commission's order until this Court should have the opportunity of determining whether a stay pending the appeal should be granted. The power has been exercised by the district court in a few other instances. But in those cases, although the Government objected to the action taken, it did not take a cross-appeal; and the question was not considered or raised upon the argument before
Section 266 provides for the hearing before three judges of applications for an interlocutory injunction to restrain the execution of a state statute, or of an order of an administrative board of the State pursuant to a state statute, where the statute or order is assailed on the ground that it violates the Federal Constitution. We declared in the Cumberland Telephone & Telegraph Co. case, p. 219, that while this Court has power to grant a stay pending the appeal, the district court acting through three judges, or a majority of them, also possesses that power; and that because such court is "best and most conveniently able to exercise the nice discretion needed . . . the court of three judges, who have heard the whole matter, have read the record, and can pass on the issue [application for a suspension pending the appeal] without additional labor," the determination of the application will ordinarily be left to it. The language of § 266 which limits the
The character of the proceeding and the end sought are the same in the two statutes. The two provisions originated in the same Act. Section 266 is a codification of § 17 of the Act of June 18, 1910, c. 309, 36 Stat. 539, 557. The provision of the Act of 1913, here in question, is an adaptation to the district courts of § 3 of the Act of 1910, which prescribed the procedure for such applications before the Commerce Court. No reason is suggested why the rule governing in cases of appeals from the district court under § 266 should not apply also to appeals from those courts under the Act of 1913. Moreover, the latter Act, in referring in the same connection to appeals from final decrees, declares that "such appeals may be taken in like manner as appeals are taken under existing law in equity cases." Congress evidently deemed that it had adequately guarded against the dangers incident to the improvident issue of the writs of injunction in cases of this character by the provisions which require action by the court of three judges, which permit of expediting the hearings before the district court, which shorten the period of appeal, and which give a direct appeal to this Court.
Seventh. The Government contends that, even if the District Court had power to stay the order of the Commission pending the appeal in this Court, its action was not warranted by the facts. A stay is not a matter of right, even if irreparable injury might otherwise result to the appellant. In re Haberman Manufacturing Co., 147 U.S. 525. It is an exercise of judicial discretion. The propriety of its issue is dependent upon the circumstances
In this class of cases an appeal bond can rarely indemnify fully even private parties to the litigation for the loss of the benefits of which the stay deprived them; and the public would usually be left wholly remediless. To justify granting the stay after a final decree sustaining the Commission's order, it must appear either that the district court entertains a serious doubt as to the correctness of its own decision; or that the decision depends upon a question of law on which there is conflict among the courts of the several circuits; or that some other special reason exists why the order of the Commission ought not to become operative until its validity can be considered by this Court.
Unless an opinion indicating the grounds of the decision is delivered, a defeated party may often be unable to determine whether the case presents a question worthy of consideration by the appellate court. This is particularly true, where the case is in equity and the decree is entered upon a hearing involving complicated facts. For being in equity, matters of fact as well as of law are reviewable; and the reviewable issues of law are rarely sharply defined by requests for rulings. The failure to accompany the decree by an opinion may thus deprive litigants of the means of exercising a sound judgment on the propriety of an appeal. And the appellate court, being without knowledge of the grounds of the decision below, is denied an important aid in the consideration of the case, and will ordinarily be subjected to much unnecessary labor.
No. 281 — Decree affirmed as to matter appealed from.
No. 282 — Decree reversed as to matter appealed from.