APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON.
Hughes, McReynolds, Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas; Murphy took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question is whether the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment is violated by a private act of Congress directing a review of an order for compensation under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act*fn1 after there had been a final award by the deputy commissioner and after the time for review of the award had expired.
On January 17, 1931, the appellee Clark fell and fractured a rib while working on the navigable waters of the United States as a longshoreman for the appellant Paramino Lumber Company. The other appellant, the Union Insurance Company of Canton, Ltd., is the insurance
carrier of the Lumber Company under the Compensation Act. The fall having disabled Clark, the appellants voluntarily paid him compensation. Then, on Clark's application, hearings were had under the Compensation Act which resulted in a determination on August 26, 1931, by the deputy commissioner that Clark had been wholly disabled from the date of his fall to July 4, 1931, that on the latter date he had recovered from the disability, and that he had been paid by appellants all the compensation due him. No proceedings being brought to review this award, it became final in thirty days.*fn2 Almost five years later, the Congress passed a private act ordering the Compensation Commission to review Clark's case and to issue a new order, the provisions in the Compensation Act limiting time for reviewing awards "to the contrary notwithstanding."*fn3 The information which led the House and Senate Committees on Claims to recommend passage of the act*fn4 indicated that
Clark had first been treated by his employer's physician who operated on his twelfth rib and reported that an examination of the eleventh rib showed a firm union at the site of the fracture of that rib. On the basis of this report the deputy commissioner concluded that Clark had recovered and terminated his compensation. But Clark's pain continued, and within four months of the deputy commissioner's order X-rays taken by other physicians disclosed that the fracture of the eleventh rib was ununited, and in order to give Clark relief an operation fusing the bone fragments had to be performed. After this the rib healed, but in March, 1935, the physician who performed the second operation reported that Clark was still experiencing pain in the region of his injury. Since the deputy commissioner had no jurisdiction over the case after he made his order, and since the time for judicial review expired prior to the time of the operation on the eleventh rib, Clark had no opportunity under the act to have his compensation readjusted.*fn5
After an unsuccessful attempt by appellants to enjoin a hearing under the private act,*fn6 a hearing was had and
the deputy commissioner issued a new award granting Clark compensation for total disability from the date of the prior award, July 4, 1931, to January 5, 1939. Appellants brought two actions against Clark and the deputy commissioner seeking injunctions against the operation of the private act through prohibition of any further steps under the new award. The first bill was framed as an independent suit in equity; the second sought relief under the section of the Compensation Act providing for "injunction preceedings" to review awards made under the Act.*fn7 Under the Act of August 24, 1937,*fn8 a three-judge court was convened and the Attorney General duly notified. The causes having been transferred to the admiralty side of the court and consolidated for all purposes, the appellees filed exceptions claiming that the appellants had failed to state a cause of action. The court upheld the validity of the special act and sustained the appellee's exceptions.*fn9
By direct appeal the appellants challenge the decree below, contending that the private act violates the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The argument of appellants is that the original award was an adjudication on which further review was barred prior to the enactment of the private act; that thereby rights and obligations were finally determined, the deprivation of which took from ...