Happy Birthday, ICA?

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ICC BuildingTime was, a “multiple-of-25” anniversary of the Interstate Commerce Act would have been an event. Law review symposia and even a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter variously marked the 50th, 75th, and 100th anniversaries of the passage, on February 4, 1887, of “An Act to Regulate Commerce,” as the Interstate Commerce Act was denominated. Such celebrations (as these events substantially were) and studies seemed entirely appropriate, not simply on account of the Act’s introduction of federal entry-and-exit and rate regulation into the world of interstate railroads, but also for its status as the harbinger of the administrative state.

How times have changed. Insofar as I have been able to tell, this past Saturday—February 4, 2012—seems to have come and gone without any public notice of its being the 125th anniversary of the Interstate Commerce Act. That, too, is logical enough: after all, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) created by the Act was abolished by Congress in 1995, and the landmark building along Constitution Avenue (pictured here) has been rededicated to other purposes of the federal government. At the same time, the Act lingers: there is no sign of the coming abolition of most of the ICC’s various descendants (grandchildren, I suppose they must be, if the ICC is the “granddaddy of them all,” as we are sometimes told), such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. And no one would suggest that the now larger administrative state is in danger of passing away anytime soon.

In all events, whether for its lasting effects or for itself in its time, the Interstate Commerce Act is worth remembering. So we will fill the void, as it seems. I will be joined by six distinguished scholars of regulated-industries law in writing short remembrances of the Interstate Commerce Act:

  • Richard D. Cudahy, Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • Paul Stephen Dempsey, Tomlinson Chair in Global Governance in Air and Space Law, McGill University
  • James W. Ely, Jr., Milton R. Underwood Professor of Law Emeritus and Professor of History Emeritus, Vanderbilt University
  • Thomas W. Merrill, Charles Evans Hughes Professor of Law, Columbia University
  • Randall C. Picker, Paul H. and Theo Leffmann Professor of Commercial Law, University of Chicago
  • James B. Speta, Professor of Law, Northwestern University

Prof. Speta and I will edit these essays for a future issue of the Marquette Law Review; we may find a spot for them on this blog during the next several months.

Author: Joseph D. Kearney

On July 1, 2003, Joseph D. Kearney became the ninth dean of Marquette University Law School. Dean Kearney has been a member of the Marquette faculty since 1997. Prior to coming to Marquette Law School, Dean Kearney practiced for six years at Sidley & Austin, Chicago's largest law firm. He served as well as a law clerk to the Honorable Antonin Scalia, Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and to the Honorable Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Dean Kearney is an accomplished teacher, scholar, and lawyer. His teaching focuses on civil litigation, including courses in Civil Procedure and Advanced Civil Procedure. His scholarly articles have appeared in the Columbia Law Review, University of Chicago Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Hastings Law Journal, and Marquette Law Review, among other journals. They variously focus on regulation of industry (particularly telecommunications), civil litigation, and judicial selection. His background as a practitioner is in appellate and telecommunications litigation, and he has argued cases before the Wisconsin and Illinois Supreme Courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and has been the primary draftsman of winning briefs on the merits in the United States Supreme Court. Dean Kearney is an honors graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School.

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