Before its property can be taken under the edict of an administrative officer a railroad is entitled to a fair hearing upon the fundamental facts.
Virginia's corporation commission issued an order requiring Southern Railway Co. to construct a highway bridge over its tracks, within the limits of its right of way, to take the place of a grade crossing. Southern Railway Co. challenged the constitutionality of Va. Code Ann. § 3974a (1930). Southern Railway Co. contended that Va. Code Ann. § 3974a (1930) (Act) deprived it of property without due process of law in violation of U.S. Const. amend. XIV. The state supreme court had construed the Act and affirmed its constitutionality and its application to the case at bar.
Did the Act deprive Southern Railway Co. of property without due process?
The Court held that the Act did not meet the requirements of due process in that it gave an administrative officer power to make final factual determinations without notice, hearing, or evidence. The Court found that the Act permitted the state highway commissioner, based upon his ex parte finding of what was necessary for the public safety and convenience, to require the expenditure necessary to erect an overhead railroad crossing to replace an existing grade crossing according to plans and specifications submitted to the railroad. The Court found that the Act delegated purely arbitrary and unconstitutional power. The Court held that the indefinite right to equitable review was not sufficient to provide the railroad with a fair hearing on the fundamental facts. The Court reversed the judgment below and remanded the case for further proceedings.