reached. The Commission rendered a detailed opinion, in the course of which it made the following significant observations:
'Classification is not an exact science. Basically it is simply a determination of reasonable relations between commodities, with grouping of kindred articles. (Case cited.) It is not unusual for articles with similar physical characteristics to be included in a single group for rating purposes, even though there is a wide range of value and weight density. (Case cited.)'
To make a comprehensive summary of the evidence before the Commission would unnecessarily prolong this opinion to an inordinate length. For our purposes, it suffices to give an indication of the nature of some of the evidence that was presented to the Commission, without attempting an exhaustive enumeration. The history of rate structures generally during the war years and of the rates on the commodities involved in this proceeding, was discussed by witnesses in detail. Comparisons were introduced between the rates on knocked-down automobile chassis, and those on other similar articles. Evidence was adduced concerning the amount, volume and weight of shipments of the type in question. A showing was made as to what rate would be low enough to attract more business to the railroads, but high enough to make it attractive to the carrier.
It is evident that the decision of the Hearing Examiner and the subsequent ruling of the Commission were reached after careful study of all of the relevant and extensive data that were presented at the hearings. The Court perceives no basis for holding that there was no substantial evidence to sustain the order of the Commission, or for reaching a conclusion that the rates approved by the Commission are unreasonable or excessive. Obviously, there was nothing arbitrary or capricious, or in violation of law, in the action of the Commission. Government counsel do not demonstrate the contrary. Consequently it is an inescapable conclusion that the findings of fact made by the Commission are sustained by substantial evidence.
It is contended by the Government that the Commission committed reversible error in admitting certain evidence that the Government claims should have been excluded under the rules of evidence relating to competency. A consideration of this point must commence with a brief discussion of the extent, if any, to which the common law rules of evidence are applicable in proceedings before administrative agencies. It is hardly necessary to be reminded of the fact that the law of evidence was originally developed for jury trials. The Chancellor did not apply it in the court of equity. Any evidence that was relevant was admitted in equity, subject necessarily to the evaluation of its probative weight. The liberality prevailing in equity continued in the Federal courts to a large extent as long as there was a separation between law and equity, that is until 1939. The existence of the distinction between the rules of evidence applicable in actions at law and the more liberal practice prevailing in equity, was recognized in Rule 43(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which contains a provision that, 'All evidence shall be admitted which is admissible under * * * the rules of evidence heretofore applied in the courts of the United States on the hearing of suits in equity, * * *.' The history of this provision tends to indicate that it was adopted at the instance of the Patent Bar, because patent lawyers wanted to assure a continuation of the liberal practice as to admissibility of evidence prevailing in patent cases. In trials by the Court without a jury, erroneous admission of evidence is not generally regarded as reversible error. The situation may be otherwise in respect to rulings excluding evidence that should have been admitted.
The courts have not imposed on administrative agencies any rigid requirement that they must exclude all evidence that would not be admitted at a trial before a judicial tribunal. Administrative agencies, therefore, are not bound by the rules of evidence relating to competency. Federal Trade Commission v. Cement Institute, 333 U.S. 683, 705-706, 68 S. Ct. 793, 92 L. Ed. 1010; Montana Power Co. v. Federal Power Commission, 87 U.S.App.D.C. 316, 323, 185 F.2d 491. An entirely different question arises if an agency excludes evidence that should have been admitted. This discussion relates to the subject of admitting evidence.
The objection of the Government to the admissibility of evidence is directed to a transcript of the testimony of several witnesses in two other proceedings tried before the Commission. The United States was also a party in the earlier cases, and Government counsel had an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. The Commission overruled the objection of the Government to the admission of this transcript and indicated that Government counsel would have a right to call these witnesses and cross-examine them in the hearing then pending. The argument of Government counsel that the parties to the proceedings involved in Exhibit No. 13 were different from those in this instance, is untenable. It was urged that because different departments of the Government were involved, it must be deemed that the parties in the proceedings were not the same. Government counsel are in error. The United States of America is a single entity. Its various departments and administrative agencies may not sue and are not suable as such.
Irrespective of this consideration, however, the rules of the Interstate Commerce Commission specifically provide for the admission of transcripts of evidence in other proceedings, subject to certain safeguards and limitations. The Court concludes that the Commission did not commit any reversible error in admitting the evidence.
Finally, it is urged by the Government that it was unreasonable for the Interstate Commerce Commission to grant a rehearing of its original decision after the long interval of time that elapsed between the original decision and the reopening of the proceedings. This objection is disposed of by the following provision of 49 U.S.C. § 17(6):
'After a decision, order, or requirement shall have been made by the Commission, a division, an individual Commissioner, or a board, or after an order recommended by an individual Commissioner or a board shall have become the order of the Commission * * * any party thereto may at any time, subject to such limitations as may be established by the Commission as hereinafter authorized, make application for rehearing, reargument, or reconsideration of the same, or of any matter determined therein.' (Emphasis supplied.)
The words 'any time' mean 'any time'; they do not mean 'within a reasonable time'. No case has been cited in which an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission on reconsideration of an earlier decision was set aside because of lapse of time between the two. It is obvious that it was the intention of Congress to confer upon the Commission the flexible power to change its decisions after rehearing at any time.
In view of the foregoing considerations, no reason is discernible for setting aside the order of the Interstate Commerce Commission sought to be reviewed in this action.
The plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied. The motion of defendants and intervenors for summary judgment is granted.