Alton R. R. v. United States

In Alton R. R. v. United States, 287 U.S. 229, 53 S.Ct. 124, 77 L.Ed. 275 (1932) the Supreme court stated that under section 15(6) of the Interstate Commerce Act, which empowers the Interstate Commerce Commission to establish just divisions of joint rates, the Commission "was not at liberty to decline to exercise its jurisdiction." Id. at 236, 53 S.Ct. at 127. Alton and other railroads with connecting lines had agreed on a division of rates for trips using track of more than one company. When the connecting lines unilaterally lowered the dollar amount remitted to Alton below that which had been agreed to, Alton petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to establish a just and reasonable division of joint revenues. With respect to "reshipping" rates the Interstate Commerce Commission effectively ratified the departure from the agreed division by refusing relief based on the explicit finding that the division offered was not unjust or unreasonable. Id. at 236-37 & n.5, 53 S.Ct. 124. Alton's suit to set aside the order of the Commission to the extent that it required Alton to continue operations under the joint agreement at reduced compensation was dismissed by the district court for lack of jurisdiction.Although the Supreme Court reversed the district court's jurisdictional holding, it specifically pointed out that "(t)o take jurisdiction would not be tantamount to usurpation by the court of the functions of the Commission." Id. at 238, 53 S.Ct. at 127. The court is not called upon here . . . to afford relief which the Commission, in the exercise of its powers, had found that the complainant was not entitled to receive. The court is not asked to prescribe reasonable divisions, or to direct that they be prescribed by the Commission. Id. at 238-39, 53 S.Ct. at 127.