Chicago, Milwaukee, and Saint Paul Railway Company v. Minnesota
CHICAGO, MILWAUKEE, AND SAINT PAUL RAILWAY COMPANY V. MINNESOTA
CHICAGO, MILWAUKEE, AND SAINT PAUL RAILWAY COMPANY V. MINNESOTA, 134 U.S. 418 (1890), a case in which substantive due process debuted on the U.S. Supreme Court. In Munn v. Illinois (1877), the Court had refused to overturn rate setting by state legislatures. But thereafter the Court edged ever closer to the idea of due process as a limitation on such state regulatory power, and in this case it finally endorsed the new doctrine.
Justice Samuel Blatchford, writing for a Court split 6–3, struck down a state statute that permitted an administrative agency to set railroad rates without subsequent review by a court. The reasonableness of a railroad rate "is eminently a question for judicial investigation, requiring due process of law for its determination." By depriving a railroad of procedural due process (access to a court to review the reasonableness of rate setting), the state had deprived the owner "of the lawful use of its property, and thus, in substance and effect, of the property itself, without due process of law." Justice Joseph Bradley in dissent contended that the Court had implicitly overruled Munn, arguing that rate setting was "preeminently a legislative [function,] involving questions of policy." Substantive due process accounted for some of the Court's worst excesses in the next decades and was abandoned between 1934 and 1937.
Paul, Arnold M. Conservative Crisis and the Rule of Law: Attitudes of Bar and Bench, 1887–1895. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1960.