Open main menu

Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/347

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

A recent number of the “New York Times” says that “of one hundred and forty-four decisions which had been appealed to the Supreme Court of New York, fifty-one were either reversed or modified. Only ninety-three of the decisions appealed from were sustained. This proportion means that the court below, in the opinion of the upper court, errs in every third case which is carried up. It is clear that in the fifty-one cases mentioned, one or the other set of judges has mistaken the law. This is no small matter, both to those immediately concerned and to the general public. A rough estimate of the damages caused to the litigants and the State would amount to about $15,000. To this must be added the losses caused by delay, both to the parties to the actions and to the jurors. Last, but not least, such a state of affairs is a direct blow at the dignity of the law, which, in order to accomplish its ends, should be kept above suspicion. There are only two plausible solutions of the uncertainty of the law: either the judges are careless and ignorant, or the legislature has so framed its statutes that their interpretation involves the courts in quibbles which, in many cases, are the direct means of defeating justice.”

An important decision has been recently made by the Interstate Commerce Commission[1] defining the extent to which the Interstate Commerce law applies to express companies. The conclusions reached are as follows:—

“In respect to some of the express companies there can be little, if any, doubt that they are fully subject to the provisions of the law. When a railroad company itself conducts the parcel traffic on its line by its ordinary transportation staff, or through an independent bureau organized for the purpose, or by means of a combination with other railroad companies in a joint arrangement for the transaction of this so-called express business, it will not be seriously questioned but that this branch of the traffic is subject to the Act to regulate commerce as fully as the ordinary freight traffic.”

The case of independently organized express companies is, however, different. “A careful examination of the history and the language of the Act to regulate commerce has brought the Commission to the conclusion that the independent express companies are not included among the common carriers declared to be subject to its provisions as they now stand. The fact that a part of the express business of the country is, as above shown, within the Act, while another and a much larger part of the same business is not so described as to be embraced in the same statute, clearly points out the necessity of further legislative action. Either the entire express business should be left wholly on one side or it should all be included.”

In the “First Annual Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission” for 1887, which we have received, through the courtesy of Judge Cooley, this distinction between independent and associated express companies, with the need for further legislation, is strongly affirmed, and the following additional comments are made:—

“What is said of the express business is applicable, also, to the business of furnishing extra accommodations to passengers in sleeping

  1. Report and Opinion of the Interstate Commerce Commission in the matter of the Express Companies. Decided Dec. 28, 1887.