Washington Law Review


Section 5 of the Trade Commission Act (15 U. S. C. § 45) and Section 11 of the Clayton Act (15 U. S. C. § 21) provide that "The findings of the Commission as to facts, if supported by testimony, shall be conclusive." This follows the form of the usual statutory provision, and its settled interpretation is that the findings of the administrative board, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive as to issues of fact. The purpose of the creation of the Trade Commission was largely to establish an administrative tribunal consisting of a body of persons especially qualified by reason of information, experience and study to administer the federal program against unfair competition and monopoly. The Trade Commission Act took the function of gathering evidence entirely out of the hands of the courts and vested it in the Commission. The Commission was given the power to employ experts and examiners, including attorneys, economists, accountants and specialists in various fields. It would seem, therefore, that by the terms "conclusive, if supported by testimony" Congress had it in mind that the administrative specialist rather than the court would determine the facts and draw the inferences therefrom. The test, then, which both logic and reason would seem to require the courts to adopt in determining whether or not the order of the Commission is to be upheld is simply this: Are the findings supported by substantial evidence? The court should not go beyond this to weigh the evidence or review the findings of fact found by the Commission. In a number of cases the Circuit Courts of Appeal have treated the findings of the Commission with due respect and have held that the findings were supported by evidence and as such were conclusive upon the courts. But the courts seem to have a natural suspicion of the functions of administrative officers and bodies and when the Commission presents a case which is not as strong as the court feels it should be it is more likely than not to set aside the administrative order and substitute therefor its own opinion. The courts have, of course, developed and evoked certain doctrines and rationalizations whereby to achieve their ends, while ostensibly obeying the legislative command. A study of the use of these rationalizations is necessary in order to determine to what extent the courts actually consider the fact findings of the Commission sufficient bases for decisions. This may perhaps best be done by first considering some of the more illustrative of those cases in which it has been found that the findings of the Commission were not supported by substantial evidence.

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