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ICC V. NEW YORK, NEW HAVEN & HARTFORD R. CO., 287 U. S. 178 (1932)

U.S. Supreme Court

ICC v. New York, New Haven & Hartford R. Co., 287 U.S. 178 (1932)

Interstate Commerce Commission v.

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Co.

No. 15

Argued October 17, 18, 1932

Decided November 21, 1932

287 U.S. 178


1. Mandamus will not issue to compel an act as a statutory duty if the existence of the duty be uncertain. Pp. 287 U. S. 191, 287 U. S. 203.

2. Public policy forbids that the work of the Interstate Commerce Commission in valuing the railroads should be hampered by writs of mandamus except where departure from the statute is clear. P. 287 U. S. 204.

3. By virtue of contracts with owner and lessee railroads, the New Haven system has the perpetual right to haul its trains over tracks entering New York City, provided it pay an agreed price per passenger carried and an agreed part of its receipts from mail and express, and the perpetual right to use a New York terminal station up to 50% capacity with an equal voice in the selection and discharge of the station manager, provided it pay a part, proportionate to such use, (1) of interest on the cost of building the terminal and (2) of the cost of maintaining and operating it; also a perpetual right to use in common with other railroads terminal tracks and a station in Boston that are owned by a terminal company of which it owns 80% of the stock, provided it pay a share, proportionate to use, of the cost of maintaining and operating the terminal, of the interest on the terminal company's bonds and of dividends on that company's stock. In valuing the New Haven's property under § 19a of the Interstate Commerce Act, the Commission, following its practice in like cases, made no specific appraisal of these trackage and terminal rights, but it reported them in the inventory, and may be assumed to have considered them in the appraisal of the system as a whole, the total value assigned to it being more than the aggregate values assigned to its physical parts.


That whether the trackage and terminal rights are to be classed as licenses or as easements, the duty to value them specifically, if it exists under the statute, is not so clearly and certainly imposed as to be enforceable by mandamus. Pp. 287 U. S. 191 et seq.

Page 287 U. S. 179

4. A command to value all the property owned or used by a carrier cannot mean that a separate and specific value must be allocated to every kind of property interest embraced within the whole. To what extent a group of property interests shall be resolved into its elements is a question of degree involving legislative intention and administrative judgment. Pp. 287 U. S. 192, 287 U. S. 194.

5. In providing, § 19a, subdivision (b), that every " piece of " property shall be inventoried, and that, in respect of each, the Commission shall ascertain original and reproduction costs, the statute does not impose a plain and certain duty to appraise in terms of cost if the interest to be appraised be such that the cost of the thing is without relevance as a criterion of the value of the interest. P. 287 U. S. 194.

6. That clause of subdivision (b), par. "First" of § 19a which requires the Commission to ascertain and report separately "other values, and elements of value, if any," of the carrier's property, with the reasons for any differences between such values and the cost values, does not impose a duty, inflexible and certain, to appraise and value a use which is unrelated to the value of what is subject to the use. P. 287 U. S. 199.

7. The valuation report is the exercise solely of the function of investigation, and, though final valuations are to be prima facie evidence against the carrier in proceedings under the Commerce Act, the opportunity to contest them, if at any time introduced in evidence, is fully preserved to the carrier, and any error therein may be corrected at the trial. P. 287 U. S. 204.

60 App.D.C. 403, 55 F.2d 1028, reversed.

Supreme Court, D.C. affirmed.

Certiorari, 286 U.S. 535, to review the reversal of a judgment dismissing a petition for mandamus.

Page 287 U. S. 184

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