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Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer

Supreme Court of the United States

May 12-13, 1952, Argued ; June 2, 1952, Decided

No. 744


 [*582]  [**864]  [***1164]    MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are asked to decide whether the President was acting within his constitutional power when he issued an order directing the Secretary of Commerce to take possession of and operate most of the Nation's steel mills. The mill owners argue that the President's order amounts to lawmaking, a legislative function which the Constitution has expressly confided to the Congress and not to the President. The Government's  [***1165]  position is that the order was made on findings of the President that his action was necessary to avert a national catastrophe which would inevitably result from a stoppage of steel production, and that in meeting this grave emergency the President was acting within the aggregate of his constitutional powers as the Nation's Chief Executive and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States.  [****7]  The issue emerges here from the following series of events:

In the latter part of 1951, a dispute arose between the steel companies and their employees over terms and conditions that should be included in new collective bargaining agreements. Long-continued conferences failed to resolve the dispute.  On December 18, 1951, the employees' representative, United Steelworkers of America, C. I. O., gave notice of an intention to strike when the existing bargaining agreements expired on December 31. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service then intervened in an effort to get labor and management to agree. This failing, the President on December 22, 1951, referred the dispute to the Federal Wage Stabilization  [*583]  Board 2 to investigate and make recommendations for fair and equitable terms of settlement. This Board's report resulted in no settlement. On April 4, 1952, the Union gave notice of a nation-wide strike called  [**865]  to begin at 12:01 a. m. April 9. The indispensability of steel as a component of substantially all weapons and other war materials led the President to believe that the proposed work stoppage would immediately jeopardize our national defense [****8]  and that governmental seizure of the steel mills was necessary in order to assure the continued availability of steel. Reciting these considerations for his action, the President, a few hours before the strike was to begin, issued Executive Order 10340, a copy of which is attached as an appendix, post, p. 589. The order directed the Secretary of Commerce to take possession of most of the steel mills and keep them running. The Secretary immediately issued his own possessory orders, calling upon the presidents of the various seized companies to serve as operating managers for the United States. They were directed to carry on their activities in accordance with regulations and directions of the Secretary. The next morning the President sent a message to Congress reporting his action. Cong. Rec., April 9, 1952, p. 3962. Twelve days later he sent a second message. Cong. Rec., April 21, 1952, p. 4192. Congress has taken no action.

 [****9]  Obeying the Secretary's orders under protest, the companies brought proceedings against him in the District Court. Their complaints charged that the seizure was not authorized by an act of Congress or by any constitutional provisions.  The District Court was asked to declare the orders of the President and the Secretary invalid and to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions restraining their enforcement.  Opposing the motion for preliminary  [*584]  injunction, the United States asserted that a strike disrupting steel production for even a brief period would so endanger the well-being and safety of the Nation that the President had "inherent power" to do what he had done -- power "supported by the Constitution, by historical precedent, and by court decisions." The Government also contended that in any event no preliminary injunction should be issued because the companies had made no showing that their available legal remedies were inadequate or that their injuries from seizure would be irreparable.  Holding against the Government on all points, the District Court on April 30 issued a preliminary injunction restraining the Secretary from "continuing the seizure and possession [****10]  of the plants . . . and from acting under the  [***1166]  purported authority of Executive Order No. 10340." 103 F.Supp. 569. On the same day the Court of Appeals stayed the District Court's injunction. 90 U. S. App. D. C.    , 197 F.2d 582. Deeming it best that the issues raised be promptly decided by this Court, we granted certiorari on May 3 and set the cause for argument on May 12. 343 U.S. 937.

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343 U.S. 579 *; 72 S. Ct. 863 **; 96 L. Ed. 1153 ***; 1952 U.S. LEXIS 2625 ****; 21 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P67,008; 1952 Trade Cas. (CCH) P67,293; 26 A.L.R.2d 1378; 47 Ohio Op. 430; 30 L.R.R.M. 2172; 62 Ohio L. Abs. 417



The District Court issued a preliminary injunction restraining the Secretary of Commerce from carrying out the terms of Executive Order No. 10340, 16 Fed. Reg. 3503. 103 F.Supp. 569. The Court of Appeals issued a stay. 90 U. S. App. D. C.    , 197 F.2d 582. This Court granted certiorari. 343 U.S. 937. The judgment of the District Court is affirmed, p. 589.

Disposition:  103 F.Supp. 569, affirmed.


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Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Ripeness, General Overview, Preliminary Considerations, Equity, Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, Governments, Federal Government, Executive Offices, US Congress, Congressional Duties & Powers, Presentment & Veto, Legislation, Enactment, Vetoes, Necessary & Proper Clause, Real Property Law, Inverse Condemnation, Constitutional Issues, Regulatory Takings