Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway 167 U.S. 479 (1897)
INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION v. CINCINNATI, NEW ORLEANS & TEXAS PACIFIC RAILWAY 167 U.S. 479 (1897)
INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION v. ALABAMA MIDLAND RAILWAY COMPANY 168 U.S. 144 (1897)
As one of Justice john marshall harlan's dissents in these cases declared, these decisions stripped the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) "of authority to do anything of an effective character." The ICC succeeded in only one appeal to the Supreme Court between 1897 and 1906. The interstate commerce act required "reasonable and just" rates and, although it gave the commission the right to set aside unreasonable rates, it did not expressly grant them power to revise rates. The ICC had operated for a decade on the assumption that it had had such power; without it, the statute's injunction to provide reasonable rates could hardly be accomplished. In ICC v. Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway (1897) the Court majority insisted that if the act's framers had intended to grant them such powers, they "would have said so." The act provided no explicit authority, however, and the extent of the power militated against "such a grant … by mere implication." If the commission exercised such rate-making powers, it would have been making law and it had only the power to "execute and enforce, not to legislate." Such a quasi-legislative delegation of power could not yet secure approval from the Court; denied power to set rates, the commission now had only the right (of questionable use) to void unreasonable rates. Justice Harlan dissented from that decision as well as from Justice george shiras's opinion in ICC v. Alabama Midland Railway Company (1897), decided a few months later. That case nearly destroyed the long haul-short haul provision in the act as well as the commission's fact-finding authority. Despite unequivocal language declaring the ICC findings of fact to be conclusive and binding on courts, Shiras decided that the clause empowering circuit courts to hear appeals necessarily implied a right of the courts to reexamine all the facts; they could not overrule the commission in both law and fact. By not presenting all evidence until an appeal, the railroads could and soon did mock ICC orders. These decisions severely restricted the commission's usefulness; not until the hepburn act of 1906 and the mann-elkins act of 1910 would Congress move to revive the commission.