Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer

The President’s power, if any, to issue an order must stem either from an act of Congress or from the United States Constitution itself. There is no statute that expressly authorizes the President to take possession of property. Nor is there any act of Congress from which such a power can fairly be implied.

Brief Fact Summary:

The President’s power, if any, to issue an order must stem from an act of Congress or the United States Constitution (Constitution).

Case Commentary:

This case is notable for the fact that every Justice in the majority wrote a separate opinion, using several different rationales to reach the same conclusion. It is difficult to determine what rule to extract from it or how broadly it applies, especially considering how clumsily the government had framed the issue at the outset. Youngstown remains a rare example of judicial intervention in an area affecting the President’s authority over foreign affairs, and it has shrunk from applying it in some recent cases. In general, the standards advocated by Jackson and Frankfurter have proved the most influential when the Court has used Youngstown to address a political dispute between Congress and the President. An embarrassed Truman relinquished the steel mills to their owners, which led to the resumption of the strike. The dispute smoldered until Truman ended it by preparing to resort to the Selective Service Act procedures to seize the mills with the proper authority.

Facts of the case:

In April of 1952, during the Korean War, President Truman issued an executive order directing Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer to seize and operate most of the nation’s steel mills. This was done in order to avert the expected effects of a strike by the United Steelworkers of America.