There have been created in the federal government and in the state governments, boards and commissions of considerable importance in the administration of certain laws. These boards and commissions do not constitute a part of the judicial system. They may have hearings, make investigations, subpoena witnesses, and enter decrees, and the conduct of an investigation before them may have the appearance of the trial of a cause, but they are not judicial courts, except in a very limited sense, and generally their final orders are appealable to the regular courts for final decision.
The chief boards and commissions for the administration of the law under the federal acts are:
(1) The Interstate Commerce Commission;
(2) The Federal Reserve Board;
(3) The Federal Trade Commission;
(4) The Federal Land Office.
The chief boards under the state acts are:
(1) Public Utility Commissions;
(2) Employer's Liability Commissions;
(3) Commissions to regulate or revise matters of taxation.
(4) The Insurance Commission;
(5) The Securities Commission (Blue Sky Law) ;
(6) The Board of Pardons;
(7) The Licensing Boards (law, medicine, dentistry, accounting, etc.) ;
(8) The Corporation Commission.
The Interstate Commerce Commission is a body created to inquire into the management of the business of interstate common carriers, and to regulate such business.
The Interstate Commerce Commission is an administrative body with quasi judicial powers consisting of seven members, appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. It was created to inquire into the business of common carriers doing an interstate business, and to that end might subpoena witnesses and require the production of books and papers. It did not originally have power to fix maximum rates but that power was given in 1906 (The Hepburn Act). (See "The Rise of the Interstate Commerce Commission," by Bruce Wyman, in 24 Yale Law Review, 529, for interesting history of the commission showing the amendments from time to time adding to the powers and converting it from a body of inquiry into one with quasi judicial powers.)
The Federal Reserve Board is a board or commission created in connection with the Federal Reserve Banking System to maintain a supervision over and to issue regulations governing the Federal Reserve Banks.
The Federal Reserve Board, consisting of seven members, was created by the Federal Reserve Act, enacted 1913, as a part of Federal Reserve Banking System to maintain an advisory and administrative supervision over Federal Reserve Banks. It has power to examine the books and accounts of the Federal Reserve banks, may permit the rediscount of discounted paper of other Federal Reserve banks, at rates fixed by it, to suspend the reserve requirements of the law for short periods, to supervise and regulate issue and retirement of notes, to suspend or remove officers of Federal Reserve banks, and so on.
(Associated with this board is the Federal Advisory Council, consisting of as many members as there are Federal Reserve districts. Their powers are purely advisory.)
The Federal Trade Commission is a commission empowered to inquire into unfair trade and monopolistic practices, to hold hearings thereon, to enter orders, appealable to the federal courts, and to report upon and advise legislation.
The chief function of the Federal Trade Commission is to inquire into and prevent unfair trade practices. It was authorized by an Act of 1914, to consist of five members appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. It has power to inquire into alleged unfair trade practices in specific instances, to hold hearings, and subpoena witnesses. Its orders are reviewable by any party who is ordered to desist from any alleged unfair practice by an appeal to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. It may gather data from corporations respecting trade practices and may advise the enactment of trade laws. It has jurisdiction, of course, only in respect to interstate commerce.
In the various states there are boards or commissions for supervision and regulation of public utility corporations.
By various names and with varying powers, commissions have been established in the different states for the purpose of administering the law governing public utilities (railroads, telegraph and telephone companies, public warehouses, street railways, pipe lines, lighting companies, and the like). Their powers depend entirely upon the statute, but generally speaking, they may conduct hearings, establish maximum rates, regulate the conditions of service, etc.
In most states there are laws enacted to provide for the compensation of employees by employers for injuries sustained while at work regardless of the employer's fault or the employee's lack of fault. Boards are created to award the compensation. These orders are appealable to the courts.
Formerly the law was that an employee could not recover for an injury sustained in the course of his employment unless his employer was negligent and the employee was not negligent. But the theory of the law now is that the employer should compensate for injuries sustained by the employee regardless of the question of negligence (unless under some laws the employer or employee elect before the injury occurs not to come under the act). These damages are awarded by a board or commission. These boards are administrative, as the law fixes the amounts payable for various injuries, but they are quasi-judicial in that they decide questions of fact, e. g., as to whether an accident happened in the course of the employment; but their decisions may be reviewed by the courts.
Such boards are in existence in the different states.
Bodies to assess taxes, and to review and equalize taxes exist in all jurisdictions.
The boards and commissions listed above in Section 25 have the powers and functions indicated by their titles. Space will not permit fuller description here.
It would be interesting to note the powers and functions of various other boards and commissions by which the law is administered but it is not possible in a book of this sort to make more than a general description.