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American Farm Lines v. Black Ball Freight, 397 U.S. 532 (1970)

American Farm Lines v. Black Ball Freight Service

No. 369

Argued February 25, 1970

Decided April 20, 1970*

397 U.S. 532


Appellant American Farm Lines (AFL) filed an application for temporary operating authority under § 210a of the Interstate Commerce Act, which allows the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to grant such authority without hearings for "service for which there is an immediate and urgent need" and where there is "no carrier service capable of meeting such need." ICC rules require that the application be supported by shippers' statements containing 11 items of information, including "(8) Whether efforts have been made to obtain the services from existing . . . carriers, and the dates and results of such efforts," and

"(9) Names and addresses of existing carriers who have either failed or refused to provide the service, and the reasons given for any such failure or refusal."

AFL's application, which was accompanied by a statement from the Department of Defense (DOD), was approved by the ICC. Protesting carriers sought review in the Federal District Court, where a single judge temporarily restrained the operation of the ICC's order. The ICC, not barred by the stay order from doing so, then granted petitions for reconsideration and reopened the proceeding to receive a further supporting statement from DOD. Based upon this statement, the ICC issued a new order granting AFL's application, and a single District Judge restrained the operation of this new order. Thereafter a three-judge court conducted a full hearing on the merits and set aside both ICC orders on the grounds that the agency failed to require strict compliance with its own rules and that the pendency of the review proceedings deprived the ICC of jurisdiction to reopen the administrative record.


1. These ICC rules are mere aids to the exercise of the agency's independent discretion, and the District Court exacted a standard of compliance with these procedural rules that was wholly unnecessary

Page 397 U. S. 533

to provide a adequate record to review the ICC's decision. Pp. 397 U. S. 537-539.

2. The ICC's statutory jurisdiction to pas on petition for rehearing may be exercised to add to it findings or to buttress them as it seems desirable, absent any interference with or injunction from the District Court. Here, the ICC honored the District Court's stay order and reopened the record merely to remedy a deficiency before any judicial review of the merits had begun, and acted in full harmony with that court's jurisdiction. Pp. 397 U. S. 539-542.

298 F.Supp. 1006, reversed.

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