Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer Case Brief

Summary of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer (the Steel Seizure case) (1952)

Relevant Facts: The country was at war with Korea. The war effort called for more weapons, and they were made from steel. Steel industry demanded an increase for all the extra work it was doing. In relation to some concerns from the Senate, a 3-way dispute broke out between the steel union, the companies and the Government, as the companies didn't want to spend extra monies for the increase, and the Government resisted.

Union announces it was going to strike. President Truman didn't want to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act of '47, the Selective Service Act of '48, or Title II of the Defense Production Act of 1950, which all gave the executive branch extensive authority to regulate wages, settle disputes and run the shops if it had to. And that's what Truman did, as he authorized Sec. of Commerce Sawyer to take possession of the steel industry and keep the mills operating to provide goods for a national emergency. Arguments come to this Court.

Issue: Under constitutional law, does the President of the United States have executive power to authorize the Secretary of Commerce to seize the nation's steel mills when he uses the war powers, executive authority vested in him in article 2 of the constitution, or any implied powers gleaned therein?

Holding: No. Although the separation of powers is more blurred then definite in scope and action, the President has no such explicit or implicit authority in which to enact such action.

Court's Rationale/Reasoning: Mills say this act should've been done by the legislature. The Government says they were tying to avoid a national crisis. There is no explicit statute or act (of Congress) which authorizes the President to act in such a manner. The only 2 statutes which authorize acquiring personal and real property are not met here. Not only are they unauthorized, but Congress refused to act in such a manner to begin with, in regards to Taft-Hartley's legislative history. Congress wanted to ensure a process of mediation and investigation of claims, and their issue in public reports.

If the President could do this, it would have to found somewhere explicitly in the Constitution, or implicitly in some historical context or foundation. The reliance is the rule stated (below), but has nothing to do with the “war powers.” It would not be faithful to the constitutional system. Nor is there any constitutional provision which grants such an action either. Article I, however, clearly spells out who has such responsibility: Congress.

The President cannot order policy; he can only suggest it, to which Congress can then legislate upon it. Congress can approve any proposal for regulation, policy, settlement of disputes, wages, and working conditions. None of this is delegated to the President. This may have happened in this past, but this doesn't mean the right to limit this extension of authority is not available. A textual approach of the Constitution says the President's powers are curbed in this extension.

Rule: Section 1 of Article II. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

Section 2 of Article II of Constitution: “The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

Important Dicta: N/A.

Dissenting: (Justices Vinson, Reed, and Minton):Many presidents have taken such action before, most notably Lincoln (Civil War, naval blockade, Emancipation Proclamation), Hayes and Cleveland (authorize use of troops to settle strikes), all w/o state or legislative authority. T.R. thought about it. Why can't this President do it too?

Concurring: (Justice Frankfurter):Traditional ways give meaning to the text. FDR's actions during the Great Depression resulted in all sorts of extensions of the executive authority, but his authority was not violative, as 3 laws were already enacted by Congress when FDR enacted his policy, and 6 more were only enacted after Congress declared war, thereby falling under the “war powers.”

(Justice Jackson): There is no definite proof from authority on this issue; stuff has to be gleaned from previous actions. Since government is not definite, and sometimes the three areas blend in with one another, there are three general areas which executive authority work with other powers:

1. When President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress.

2. When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority. When this is the case, the test depends on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.

3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, this is the lowest level he can extend his authority.

This is a category three action. If the US's commander-in-chief argument is applied, then the executive branch could use its authority over any business/industry under the guise of the relatedness. If their inherent powers are accepted, this Court is essentially making up law. There still is a distinction between the President's paper powers and his real powers, but the Court here will not stretch to such a level where his implied powers are so great. The President is supposed to be checked.


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