Touby v. United States

PETITIONER: Daniel Touby, et ux.
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Residence of Daniel and Lyrissa Touby

DOCKET NO.: 90-6282
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 500 US 160 (1991)
ARGUED: Apr 17, 1991
DECIDED: May 20, 1991

Joel I. Klein - on behalf of the Petitioner
Jeffrey P. Minear - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

In the 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act that defined five kinds or “schedules” of the materials aimed to regulate and to condemn. The legislative document empowered the Attorney General with the rights to include or exclude some kinds of the substance of the list or to change their category. The law also established some policies to allow the act enforcement by the official.

As the procedures extended the possibility of passing amendments to this law exercising, the producers had the possibilities to create the products under the escape clause unregulated by the Act.

In 1984, Congress approved the amendments to the law that entitle the Attorney General to set up the drug categories, which reinforce the act exercising. Then the official empowered the Drug enforcement Agency (DEA) with these scheduling responsibilities, which arranged the including of the designer drug “Euphoria” to a Schedule I.

At this time the DEA received a legible warrant to exercise the search of the house of Daniel and Lyrissa Touby, where they observed laboratory for a fully Euphoria production.

The Toubys were accused of illegal production of Euphoria. The defendants argued that that the Controlled Substances Act empowered the Attorney General with law enforcement with the responsibilities in an unconstitutional way, and therefore the official had no legal rights entitle the DEA with some executive authority. The district court refused the claim, and the defendants were condemned. The Court of Appeals confirmed the previous judicial opinion.

However, the case of Touby v. United states was revised by the USA Supreme Court. The judges had to resolve the issue whether the law regarding the provision of the delegation of responsibilities to the Attorney General and his rights to empower the DEA, didn`t contradict with the constitutional norms.

The Court confirmed that nondelegation concept established the rights for Congress to cooperate with the other units of the government non restricting some level of their power. The judges explained that the law provided enough regulations regarding rights and restrictions imposed to the Attorney General and didn`t infringe the Constitution norms by such delegation.

The case study finds that court also upheld that Act legally authorized the prosecutor with the capacities to assign responsibilities to other government structures like the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Hence, as the valid of the Controlled Substances Act was proven, thus the conviction of the previous judgment was confirmed too.


Did the Controlled Substances Act unconstitutionally delegate legislative power to the Attorney General?

(1)Does the Act allow the Attorney General to delegate authority to the Drug Enforcement Agency?


Media for Touby v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 17, 1991 in Touby v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 20, 1991 in Touby v. United States

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The second case which I have to announce is Touby versus the United States which comes to us on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

At issue in this case is the Controlled Substances Act which authorizes the attorney general to identify dangerous new drugs and add them to a list or schedule of controlled substances.

It takes six to twelve months for the Attorney General to complete the procedures required to add a drug permanently to a particular schedule.

Drug traffickers were able to take advantage of this time gap by developing and marketing designer drugs, that is drugs that are similar in effect to schedule substances but differing slightly in chemical composition, so that existing schedules did not apply to them, long before the government was able to schedule the new drugs and initiate prosecutions.

To combat the designer drug problem, congress created an expedited procedure by which the Attorney General can schedule a substance on a temporary basis when doing so is necessary to avoid an eminent hazard to the public safety.

Pursuant to the temporary scheduling statute of designer drug known as Euphoria, was scheduled by the Attorney General as a controlled substance.

The petitioners in this case were indicted for manufacturing the drug but moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the statute violates the constitution by delegating legislative power to the Attorney General.

The District Court denied the motion to dismiss and the Court of appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the petitioner’s convictions.

In an opinion filed today, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

A temporary scheduling statute does not delegate legislative power to the attorney general.

Our cases made clear that congress may invest a certain degree of discretion in another branch of government so long as it lays down an intelligible principle to which that other branch must conform.

There is no doubt that in the temporary scheduling statute, congress has laid down an intelligible principle.

Petitioners argue also that by baring judicial review, the statute makes it impossible for a court to ascertain whether the will of congress has been obeyed.

We conclude that the temporary scheduling statute does not bar judicial review.

It merely postpones it until the administrative process has run its course.

In addition, the statute does not preclude an individual phase in criminal charges from bringing a challenge to a temporary scheduling order as a defense to the prosecution.

The petitioners also argued that the statute concentrates too much power in the Attorney General, thereby violating the principle of separation of powers.

They conceive that congress may legitimately authorize someone in the executive branch to schedule drugs temporarily but argued that it must be someone other than the Attorney General because he wills the power to prosecute crimes.

This argument has no basis in our separation of powers jurisprudence.

The doctrine focuses on the distribution of powers among the three coequal branches.

It does not speak to the manner in which authority is parceled out within a single branch.

The opinion of the court is unanimous.

Justice Marshall has filed a concurring opinion which Justice Blackmun has joined.