United States v. Florida East Coast Railway Co.

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Plaintiff

Florida East Coast Railway Co.

Defendant

United States

Procedural History

This action was originally filed in the District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The district court held for the plaintiffs.

Facts

In 1966 Congress amended the Interstate Commerce Act which created the authority to charge per diem charges for the use by one railroad of freight cars owned by another. In December of 1967 the Interstate Commerce Commission initiated a rule making procedure requiring certain railroads to report their freight car supply and demand for a certain period of time. In April 1968, there was an informal hearing where 20 railroads voiced concerns about the procedures laid out.

After collecting the supply and demand data, the Commission presented the data to the Senate. Afterwards the Commission issued a report which said it adopted per diem charges on standard boxcars and that "any party requesting oral hearing shall set forth with specificity the need therefor and the evidence to be adduced." The Commission did not have any further hearings and overruled the requests of the plaintiffs.

Discussion

First the court decides that sections 556 and 557 of the APA are not triggered because section 1(14)(a) of the Interstate Commerce Act does not say anything like "one the record".

The court tries then to find out the meaning of the word "hearing" in section 1(14)(a). To do this is tries to figure out what hearing meanings in the APA. The court says that it is "convinced that the term 'hearing' as used therein does not necessarily embrace either the right to present evidence orally and cross examine opposing witnesses, or right to present oral argument to the agency's decision maker." Neither Section 553 nor Section 556 of the APA mandates oral presentations; at time evidentiary submissions in written form may satisfy a hearing on the record. The court therefore concludes that the hearings requirements of section 1(14)(a) were met.

Finally the court dismisses the claims of constitutional deprivation of process that are put forth by the plaintiff. The court distinguishes cases in which an administrative agency makes a judgment that will affect one person/company and a rule that will more generally affect a group of people. Since this rule by the Commission is of the latter type, there are no due process violations.