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GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY v. CAHILL ET AL.

May 17, 1920

GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY
v.
CAHILL ET AL., CO-PARTNERS AS REDMAN & CAHILL, ET AL.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: White

[ 253 U.S. Page 71]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

In Great Northern Ry. Co. v. Minnesota, 238 U.S. 340, the question was whether an order of the Railroad & Warehouse Commission of Minnesota directing the railway to install at a named station a cattle-weighing scale was rightly sustained by the Supreme Court of the State. It

[ 253 U.S. Page 72]

     was found by that court (a) that out of 259 stations on the railway line in Minnesota where stock yards for handling cattle existed there were but 54 supplied with cattle- weighing scales, all of which the railway has voluntarily installed; (b) that although such scales had no direct part in transportation, they were convenient in stock dealings and a station possessing one had an advantage over a place where none existed; in fact, that at the 54 stations where they had been voluntarily installed it had come to pass that they were used, not by shippers for the purposes of their transportation business, but by those who bought and sold cattle.

Coming to consider the contention of the railway that the order to put in the scales was repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment as a taking of its property without due process, since as a carrier no obligation rested upon it to put in the scales, it was pointed out that the test was whether the order was so arbitrary and unreasonable as to exceed the power of government, or was justified by the public necessities which the carrier could lawfully be compelled to meet. Holding that as the duty of the railway was confined to furnishing appliances for its business of transportation and that cattle scales were not of such a character it followed that the railway could not be compelled to supply them as a means for building up the business of trading in cattle however much the public might be benefited thereby, the defense of the railway was maintained and the order of the Commission was held to be wanting in due process and void. The result, it was pointed out, could not be avoided by the suggestion that the order was intended to correct a discrimination which existed in favor of certain stations which had scales, since in substance to say that would be to correct one discrimination by creating another.

Shortly before the argument in this court of the Minnesota Case just referred to, the firm of Cahill and Redman

[ 253 U.S. Page 73]

     petitioned the Board of Railroad Commissioners of South Dakota for an order requiring the Great Northern Railway Company to install and maintain a cattle scale adjacent to its cattle yards at Albee station. It was alleged in the petition that no means otherwise of weighing cattle existed at Albee; that the public necessities of the cattle trade required the scale and that the number of cattle shipped from the place justified the outlay by the railway.

The railway answered denying any duty on its part to install the scale and asserted that to compel it to put the scale in would deprive it of its property without due process and would besides deny it the equal protection of the laws, both in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

At the hearing which followed there was no showing that any cattle had been shipped over the railway into Albee. It was indisputably established, however, (a) that not only the defendant railway but the other roads operating in the State of South Dakota had at some of their stations installed stock yard scales which presumably, in the absence of all proof to the contrary, had been voluntarily installed; (b) that all shipments of cattle from Albee during the preceding three years amounted only to 56 carloads, all of which were moved in interstate commerce, that is, to St. Paul, Minnesota, and that with regard to less than carload lots two cattle shipped in intrastate commerce constituted the sole movement; (c) that the universal rule on all railroads throughout the United States is to determine the weight of cattle shipped in carload lots, for the purposes of ascertaining the freight charges, not by weight taken on scales at the point of shipment, but by a track scales at or adjacent to the point of delivery; (d) that the business ...


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