Administrative Law-Judicial Control-Injunctive Extension of the Rate Suspension Period Under the Interstate Commerce Act

Plaintiffs, two interstate carriers and a municipal corporation, and defendants, four railroad companies, were parties to an investigation and suspension proceeding before the Interstate Commerce Commission. Section 15(7) of the Interstate Commerce Act allows the Commission to suspend the effectiveness of rate revisions proposed by carriers for seven months while it is deciding whether to approve them. If no decision is reached by the end of the suspension period, the proposed rates automatically become effective subject to a subsequent determination of their validity by the ICC. Expiration of the order suspending defendants’ rate proposals was imminent when, in an unprecedented attempt to maintain the status quo pending a final Commission decision, the plaintiffs brought an original action in a federal district court seeking to enjoin the application of the disputed tariff schedules. The district court found, as a matter of fact, that, if the proposed reductions were to go into effect as required by the Interstate Commerce Act, there was grave danger that the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm. The court, however, denied injunctive relief on the ground that jurisdiction over rate suspensions is vested exclusively in the. ICC by section 15(7) of the act. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused to grant plaintiffs’ prayer for an injunction pending appeal, but did grant a continuance of its previously issued temporary restraining order. On application to Mr. Justice Black for an extension of the temporary restraining order until the Supreme Court could consider plaintiffs’ petition for a writ of certiorari, held, application granted. Mr. Justice Black commented favorably on the plaintiffs’ prospects of obtaining review by the Supreme Court, and pointed out that the Supreme Court has never interpreted section 15(7) as substantially destroying federal court jurisdiction to restrain conduct which inflicts irreparable damage. Arrow Transp. Co. v. Southern Ry., 83 Sup. Ct. 1 (1962).