Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Texas, 246 U.S. 58 (1918)

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Author: Justice Holmes

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Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Texas, 246 U.S. 58 (1918)

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a suit by the state to compel the defendant railroad, the plaintiff in error, to stop two interstate trains, one numbered 17 and southbound, the other numbered 18 and northbound, at the City of Meridian for a time sufficient to receive and let off passengers. Meridian is the County Seat of Bosque County, and has a population of 1,500. Two other trains of the defendant going each way stopped there daily, but the Railroad Commission of the state found that these were insufficient for the needs of business at that station, and made the order that this suit seeks to have carried out. The statute of Texas giving to the Commission power to make such order contains a proviso that

four trains each way, carrying passengers for hire, if so many are run daily, Sundays excepted, be required to stop as aforesaid at all county seat stations,

so that the Commission seems to have obeyed a statutory mandate. Art. 6676, (2), Vernon’s Sayles’ Texas Civil Statutes. Another article, 6672, imposes a penalty of not more than $5,000 for every failure to obey such lawful order, and this suit seeks to recover penalties as well. The trial court confirmed the finding of the Commission that the present service is insufficient, and the order, and imposed a fine of $22,400, being $100 for each failure to stop. It stated the facts in great detail, but it will not be necessary to repeat them here. The court of civil Appeals again confirmed the above finding and affirmed the judgment. The supreme court of the state refused to allow a writ of error, declaring itself unable to say that the conclusion of the lower court was unwarranted as matter of law.

This case does not require quite so critical an examination into the facts as was made in Mississippi R. Commission v. Illinois Central R. Co., 203 U.S. 335, 344-345, and Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Wharton, 207 U.S. 328, 330, 334-335, in order to decide whether the judgment of the state courts and Commission and, it would seem, of the legislature, was wrong. If the reasoning that prevailed with the court of civil appeals were applied to Meridian simply in view of the number of its inhabitants, there would be a serious question whether it could be sustained. For the consideration most emphasized was that no sleeping cars were attached to the local trains, and that, in order to make use of such accommodation on the trains in question, passengers had to get in or out at stations from seven or eight to twelve or fifteen miles away. It was thought that, when the railroad furnished such accommodations to a part of the public, it was bound to furnish the same to all others -- a very questionable proposition as applied. The other fact relied upon was that passengers not infrequently came on trains 17 and 18 destined for Meridian and had to get out at Morgan or Clifton, the next stations to the north and south. We repeat that whether these facts would justify an intermeddling with interstate trains in favor of a place of this size, merely as such, would be a serious question. But the state court sustained the order as one required by statute in favor of county seats, up to the number of four trains each way, Sundays excepted. The law is not directed adversely at interstate trains, but expresses the specific judgment of the legislature as to the needs of the county seats, all of which, of course, it knew. If its judgment is correct, which we have no grounds for denying, the order may be justified, so far as its interference with interstate commerce is concerned, unless some other fact shows that the burden is too great.

The only additional facts material to this point are that the defendant competes with railroads having shorter routes, that, for that reason and in order to keep its contracts for the carriage of United States mails, it has to make fast time, and that it has little or none to spare. On the other hand, Meridian is the only county seat at which it does not stop, and it does stop at some smaller places, as well as make a detour in order to go through Houston. The time that would be taken would be four or five minutes for Number 17, and about 10 minutes for Number 18, according to the trial court. The court of civil appeals says in general terms from three to five. We are not prepared to say that the finding that there will be no unreasonable burden is wrong.

It is urged that the power of the state commission has been taken away by the Hepburn Amendment to the Act to Regulate Commerce of June 29, 1906, c. 3591, § 1, 34 Stats. 584, and the further Act of June 18, 1910, c. 309, § 7, 36 Stats. 546, making it the duty of carriers, including sleeping car companies, to make reasonable regulations affecting the facilities for transportation, the Interstate Commerce Commission having jurisdiction over such matters. But the state requires certain services to county seats with an aim that is not directed against interstate trains as such. The statute is subordinate to the regulations of the Commission so far as it may lead to an incidental interference with such trains and in the absence of any conflict it may stand as here applied. See Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R. Co. v. Railroad Commission of Wisconsin, 237 U.S. 220, 233.

The other point argued here is that the railroad could not be subjected to, at most, more than one penalty while the validity of the order was awaiting judicial determination, Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 147, being relied upon. But the statutes of Texas provided for a suit to test the validity of the order in a court either of the state or of the United States, Art. 6657. Reagan v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co., 154 U.S. 362, 391-392. Railroad Commission of Texas v. Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Ry. Co., 51 Tex.Civ.App. 447. Eastern Texas R. Co. v. Railroad Commission, 242 F. 300. The railroad company saw fit to await proceedings against it, and although the case in all its aspects is somewhat extreme, the judgment must be affirmed. Wadley Southern Ry. Co. v. Georgia, 235 U.S. 651, 669.

Judgment affirmed.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE MR. JUSTICE McKENNA and MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS dissent.

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Chicago: Holmes, "Holmes, J., Lead Opinion," Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Texas, 246 U.S. 58 (1918) in 246 U.S. 58 246 U.S. 60–246 U.S. 62. Original Sources, accessed August 8, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51P7X1PK6Q3TXGW.

MLA: Holmes. "Holmes, J., Lead Opinion." Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Texas, 246 U.S. 58 (1918), in 246 U.S. 58, pp. 246 U.S. 60–246 U.S. 62. Original Sources. 8 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51P7X1PK6Q3TXGW.

Harvard: Holmes, 'Holmes, J., Lead Opinion' in Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Texas, 246 U.S. 58 (1918). cited in 1918, 246 U.S. 58, pp.246 U.S. 60–246 U.S. 62. Original Sources, retrieved 8 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51P7X1PK6Q3TXGW.