MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The essential issue raised by this case and its companion, Labor Board v. Pittsburgh Steamship Co., post, p. 498, is the effect of the Administrative Procedure Act and the legislation colloquially known as the Taft-Hartley Act on the duty of Courts of Appeals when called upon to review orders of the National Labor Relations Board.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted enforcement of an order directing, in the main, that petitioner reinstate with back pay an employee found to have been discharged because he gave testimony under the Wagner Act and cease and desist from discriminating against any employee who files charges or gives testimony under that Act. The court below, Judge Swan dissenting, decreed full enforcement of the order. 179 F.2d 749. Because the views of that court regarding the effect of the new legislation on the relation between the Board and the Courts of Appeals in the enforcement of the Board's orders conflicted with those of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Want of certainty in judicial review of Labor Board decisions partly reflects the intractability of any formula to furnish definiteness of content for all the impalpable factors involved in judicial review. But in part doubts as to the nature of the reviewing power and uncertainties in its application derive from history, and to that extent an elucidation of this history may clear them away.
The Wagner Act provided: "The findings of the Board as to the facts, if supported by evidence, shall be conclusive." Act of July 5, 1935, § 10 (e), 49 Stat. 449, 454, 29 U. S. C. § 160 (e). This Court read "evidence" to mean "substantial evidence," Washington, V. & M. Coach Co. v. Labor Board, 301 U.S. 142, and we said that "[s]ubstantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. v. Labor Board, 305 U.S. 197, 229. Accordingly, it "must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be established. . . . it must be enough to justify, if the trial were to a jury, a refusal to direct a verdict when the conclusion sought to be drawn from it is one of fact for the jury." Labor Board v. Columbian Enameling & Stamping Co., 306 U.S. 292, 300.
The very smoothness of the "substantial evidence" formula as the standard for reviewing the evidentiary validity of the Board's findings established its currency. But the inevitably variant applications of the standard to conflicting evidence soon brought contrariety of views and in due course bred criticism. Even though the whole record may have been canvassed in order to determine whether the evidentiary foundation of a determination by the Board was "substantial," the phrasing of this Court's process of review readily lent itself to the notion
Criticism of so contracted a reviewing power reinforced dissatisfaction felt in various quarters with the Board's administration of the Wagner Act in the years preceding the war. The scheme of the Act was attacked as an inherently unfair fusion of the functions of prosecutor and judge.
The strength of these pressures was reflected in the passage in 1940 of the Walter-Logan Bill. It was vetoed by President Roosevelt, partly because it imposed unduly rigid limitations on the administrative process, and partly because of the investigation into the actual operation of the administrative process then being conducted by an experienced committee appointed by the Attorney General.
Similar dissatisfaction with too restricted application of the "substantial evidence" test is reflected in the legislative history of the Taft-Hartley Act.
This phraseology was adopted by the Senate. The House conferees agreed. They reported to the House: "It is believed that the provisions of the conference agreement
From the legislative story we have summarized, two concrete conclusions do emerge. One is the identity of aim of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Taft-Hartley Act regarding the proof with which the Labor Board must support a decision. The other is that now Congress has left no room for doubt as to the kind of scrutiny which a Court of Appeals must give the record before the Board to satisfy itself that the Board's order rests on adequate proof.
It would be mischievous word-playing to find that the scope of review under the Taft-Hartley Act is any different from that under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Senate Committee which reported the review clause of the Taft-Hartley Act expressly indicated that the two standards were to conform in this regard, and the wording of the two Acts is for purposes of judicial administration identical. And so we hold that the standard of proof specifically required of the Labor Board by the Taft-Hartley Act is the same as that to be exacted by courts reviewing every administrative action subject to the Administrative Procedure Act.
Whether or not it was ever permissible for courts to determine the substantiality of evidence supporting a Labor Board decision merely on the basis of evidence which in and of itself justified it, without taking into account contradictory evidence or evidence from which conflicting inferences could be drawn, the new legislation
To be sure, the requirement for canvassing "the whole record" in order to ascertain substantiality does not furnish a calculus of value by which a reviewing court can assess the evidence. Nor was it intended to negative the function of the Labor Board as one of those agencies presumably equipped or informed by experience to deal with a specialized field of knowledge, whose findings within that field carry the authority of an expertness which courts do not possess and therefore must respect. Nor does it mean that even as to matters not requiring expertise a court may displace the Board's choice between two fairly conflicting views, even though the court would justifiably have made a different choice had the matter been before it de novo. Congress has merely made it clear that a reviewing court is not barred from setting aside a Board decision when it cannot conscientiously find that the evidence supporting that decision is substantial, when viewed in the light that the record in its entirety furnishes, including the body of evidence opposed to the Board's view.
There remains, then, the question whether enactment of these two statutes has altered the scope of review other than to require that substantiality be determined in the light of all that the record relevantly presents. A formula for judicial review of administrative action may afford grounds for certitude but cannot assure certainty of application.
Since the precise way in which courts interfere with agency findings cannot be imprisoned within any form of words, new formulas attempting to rephrase the old are not likely to be more helpful than the old. There are no talismanic words that can avoid the process of judgment. The difficulty is that we cannot escape, in relation to this problem, the use of undefined defining terms.
Whatever changes were made by the Administrative Procedure and Taft-Hartley Acts are clearly within this area where precise definition is impossible. Retention of the familiar "substantial evidence" terminology indicates that no drastic reversal of attitude was intended.
But a standard leaving an unavoidable margin for individual judgment does not leave the judicial judgment at large even though the phrasing of the standard does not wholly fence it in. The legislative history of these Acts demonstrates a purpose to impose on courts a responsibility which has not always been recognized. Of course it is a statute and not a committee report which we are interpreting. But the fair interpretation of a statute is often "the art of proliferating a purpose," Brooklyn National Corp. v. Commissioner, 157 F.2d 450, 451, revealed more by the demonstrable forces that produced it than by its precise phrasing. The adoption in these statutes of the judicially-constructed "substantial evidence" test was a response to pressures for stricter and more uniform practice, not a reflection of approval of all existing practices.
We conclude, therefore, that the Administrative Procedure Act and the Taft-Hartley Act direct that courts must now assume more responsibility for the reasonableness and fairness of Labor Board decisions than some courts have shown in the past. Reviewing courts must be influenced by a feeling that they are not to abdicate the conventional judicial function. Congress has imposed on them responsibility for assuring that the Board keeps within reasonable grounds. That responsibility is not less real because it is limited to enforcing the requirement that evidence appear substantial when viewed, on the record as a whole, by courts invested with the authority and enjoying the prestige of the Courts of Appeals. The Board's findings are entitled to respect; but they must nonetheless be set aside when the record before a Court of Appeals clearly precludes the Board's decision from being justified by a fair estimate of the worth of the testimony of witnesses or its informed judgment on matters within its special competence or both.
From this it follows that enactment of these statutes does not require every Court of Appeals to alter its practice. Some—perhaps a majority—have always applied the attitude reflected in this legislation. To explore whether a particular court should or should not alter its practice would only divert attention from the application of the standard now prescribed to a futile inquiry into the nature of the test formerly used by a particular court.
Our power to review the correctness of application of the present standard ought seldom to be called into action.
Our disagreement with the view of the court below that the scope of review of Labor Board decisions is unaltered by recent legislation does not of itself, as we have noted, require reversal of its decision. The court may have applied a standard of review which satisfies the present Congressional requirement.
The decision of the Court of Appeals is assailed on two grounds. It is said (1) that the court erred in holding that it was barred from taking into account the report of the examiner on questions of fact insofar as that report was rejected by the Board, and (2) that the Board's order was not supported by substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole, even apart from the validity of the court's refusal to consider the rejected portions of the examiner's report.
The latter contention is easily met. It is true that two of the earlier decisions of the court below were among those disapproved by Congress.
The first contention, however, raises serious questions to which we now turn.
The Court of Appeals deemed itself bound by the Board's rejection of the examiner's findings because the court considered these findings not "as unassailable as a master's."
The Court of Appeals concluded from this premise "that, although the Board would be wrong in totally disregarding his findings, it is practically impossible for a
We are aware that to give the examiner's findings less finality than a master's and yet entitle them to consideration in striking the account, is to introduce another and an unruly factor into the judgmatical process of review. But we ought not to fashion an exclusionary rule merely to reduce the number of imponderables to be considered by reviewing courts.
The Taft-Hartley Act provides that "The findings of the Board with respect to questions of fact if supported by substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole shall be conclusive." 61 Stat. 148, 29 U. S. C. (Supp. III) § 160 (e). Surely an examiner's report is as much a part of the record as the complaint or the testimony. According to the Administrative Procedure Act, "All decisions (including initial, recommended, or tentative decisions) shall become a part of the record . . . ." § 8 (b), 60 Stat. 242, 5 U. S. C. § 1007 (b). We found that this Act's provision for judicial review has the same meaning as that in the Taft-Hartley Act. The similarity of the two statutes in language and purpose also requires that the definition of "record" found in the Administrative Procedure Act be construed to be applicable as well to the term "record" as used in the Taft-Hartley Act.
It is therefore difficult to escape the conclusion that the plain language of the statutes directs a reviewing court to determine the substantiality of evidence on the record including the examiner's report. The conclusion
This aim was set forth by the Attorney General's Committee on Administrative Procedure:
Apparently it was the Committee's opinion that these recommendations should not be obligatory. For the bill which accompanied the Final Report required only that hearing officers make an initial decision which would become final in the absence of further agency action, and that agencies which differed on the facts from their examiners give reasons and record citations supporting their conclusion.
We do not require that the examiner's findings be given more weight than in reason and in the light of judicial experience they deserve. The "substantial evidence" standard is not modified in any way when the Board and its examiner disagree. We intend only to recognize that evidence supporting a conclusion may be less substantial when an impartial, experienced examiner who has observed the witnesses and lived with the case has drawn conclusions different from the Board's than when he has reached the same conclusion. The findings of the examiner are to be considered along with the consistency and inherent probability of testimony. The significance of his report, of course, depends largely on the importance of credibility in the particular case. To give it this significance does not seem to us materially more difficult
The direction in which the law moves is often a guide for decision of particular cases, and here it serves to confirm our conclusion. However halting its progress, the trend in litigation is toward a rational inquiry into truth, in which the tribunal considers everything "logically probative of some matter requiring to be proved." Thayer, A Preliminary Treatise on Evidence, 530; Funk v. United States, 290 U.S. 371. This Court has refused to accept assumptions of fact which are demonstrably false, United States v. Provident Trust Co., 291 U.S. 272, even when agreed to by the parties, Swift & Co. v. Hocking Valley R. Co., 243 U.S. 281. Machinery for discovery of evidence has been strengthened; the boundaries of judicial notice have been slowly but perceptibly enlarged. It would reverse this process for courts to deny examiners' findings the probative force they would have in the conduct of affairs outside a courtroom.
We therefore remand the cause to the Court of Appeals. On reconsideration of the record it should accord the findings of the trial examiner the relevance that they reasonably command in answering the comprehensive question whether the evidence supporting the Board's order is substantial. But the court need not limit its reexamination of the case to the effect of that report on its decision. We leave it free to grant or deny enforcement as it thinks the principles expressed in this opinion dictate.
Judgment vacated and cause remanded.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS concur with parts I and II of this opinion but as to part III agree with the opinion of the court below, 179 F.2d 749, 753.
"[W]e recognize how momentous may be such an abdication of any power of review . . . ."
"Assuming that such a change may be desirable with respect to special administrative determinations, there is serious objection to its adoption for general application.
"In the first place there is the question of how much change, if any, the amendment would produce. The respect that courts have for the judgments of specialized tribunals which have carefully considered the problems and the evidence cannot be legislated away. The line between `substantial evidence' and `weight of evidence' is not easily drawn—particularly when the court is confined to a written record, has a limited amount of time, and has no opportunity further to question witnesses on testimony which seems hazy or leaves some lingering doubts unanswered. `Substantial evidence' may well be equivalent to the `weight of evidence' when a tribunal in which one has confidence and which had greater opportunities for accurate determination has already so decided.
"In the second place the wisdom of a general change to review of the `weight of evidence' is questionable. If the change would require the courts to determine independently which way the evidence preponderates, administrative tribunals would be turned into little more than media for transmission of the evidence to the courts. It would destroy the values of adjudication of fact by experts or specialists in the field involved. It would divide the responsibility for administrative adjudications." Final Report, 91-92.
"Until Congress finds it practicable to examine into the situation of particular agencies, it should provide more definitely by general legislation for both the availability and scope of judicial review in order to reduce uncertainty and variability. As the Committee recognizes in its report, there are several principal subjects of judicial review— including constitutional questions, statutory interpretation, procedure, and the support of findings of fact by adequate evidence. The last of these should, obviously we think, mean support of all findings of fact, including inferences and conclusion of fact, upon the whole record. Such a legislative provision should, however, be qualified by a direction to the courts to respect the experience, technical competence, specialized knowledge, and discretionary authority of each agency. We have framed such a provision in the appendix to this statement." Id., 210-212.
The text of the recommended provision is as follows:
"(e) Scope of review.—As to the findings, conclusions, and decisions in any case, the reviewing court, regardless of the form of the review proceeding, shall consider and decide so far as necessary to its decision and where raised by the parties, all relevant questions of: (1) constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity; (2) the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the agency; (3) the lawfulness and adequacy of procedure; (4) findings, inferences, or conclusions of fact unsupported, upon the whole record, by substantial evidence; and (5) administrative action otherwise arbitrary or capricious. Provided, however, That upon such review due weight shall be accorded the experience, technical competence, specialized knowledge, and legislative policy of the agency involved as well as the discretionary authority conferred upon it." Id., 246-247.
"SEC. 10. Except so far as (1) statutes preclude judicial review or (2) agency action is by law committed to agency discretion—
"(e) SCOPE OF REVIEW.—So far as necessary to decision and where presented the reviewing court shall decide all relevant questions of law, interpret constitutional and statutory provisions, and determine the meaning or applicability of the terms of any agency action. It shall (A) compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed; and (B) hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be (1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; (2) contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity; (3) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right; (4) without observance of procedure required by law; (5) unsupported by substantial evidence in any case subject to the requirements of sections 7 and 8 or otherwise reviewed on the record of an agency hearing provided by statute; or (6) unwarranted by the facts to the extent that the facts are subject to trial de novo by the reviewing court. In making the foregoing determinations the court shall review the whole record or such portions thereof as may be cited by any party, and due account shall be taken of the rule of prejudicial error." 60 Stat. 243-244, 5 U. S. C. § 1009 (e). (Italics ours.)
In the form in which the bill was originally presented to Congress, clause (B) (5) read, "unsupported by competent, material, and substantial evidence upon the whole agency record as reviewed by the court in any case subject to the requirements of sections 7 and 8." H. R. 1203, 79th Cong., 1st Sess., quoted in S. Doc. No. 248, 79th Cong., 2d Sess. 155, 160. References to competency and materiality of evidence were deleted and the final sentence added by the Senate Committee. S. Rep. No. 752, 79th Cong., 1st Sess. 28; S. Doc. No. 248, supra, 39-40, 214. No reason was given for the deletion.
See also the response of Senator McCarran in debate, to the effect that the bill changed the "rule" that courts were "powerless to interfere" when there "was no probative evidence." Id., 322. And see the comment of Congressman Springer, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, id., 376.
Senator Taft gave this explanation to the Senate of the meaning of the section: "In the first place, the evidence must be substantial; in the second place, it must still look substantial when viewed in the light of the entire record. That does not go so far as saying that a decision can be reversed on the weight of the evidence. It does not go quite so far as the power given to a circuit court of appeals to review a district-court decision, but it goes a great deal further than the present law, and gives the court greater opportunity to reverse an obviously unjust decision on the part of the National Labor Relations Board." 93 Cong. Rec. 3839, reprinted in 2 Legislative History 1014.
The court's ruling excluding from consideration disagreement between the Board and the examiner was in apparent conflict with the views of three other circuits. Labor Board v. Ohio Calcium Co., 133 F.2d 721, 724 (C. A. 6th Cir.); A. E. Staley Mfg. Co. v. Labor Board, 117 F.2d 868, 878 (C. A. 7th Cir.); Wilson & Co. v. Labor Board, 123 F.2d 411, 418 (C. A. 8th Cir.); cf. International Assn. of Machinists v. Labor Board, 71 App. D. C. 175, 180, 110 F.2d 29, 34 (C. A. D. C. Cir.).