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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Curtiss-Wright Exp. Corp. - 14 F. Supp. 230 (S.D.N.Y. 1936)

Rule:

The legislature cannot delegate its power to make a law; but it can make a law to delegate a power to determine some fact or state of things upon which the law makes, or intends to make, its own action depend. To deny this would be to stop the wheels of government.

Facts:

The joint resolution of Congress stated that it was unlawful to sell arms to countries engaged in war if the President of the United States found that such embargo promoted the reestablishment of peace after consultation with other governments. The President issued such a proclamation. By the time of defendants' indictment, the President had revoked the proclamation because the war had ended. Defendants committed the acts in the alleged conspiracy while the presidential proclamation was in effect. In defendants' demurrer, they first objected to the delegation of legislative power to the executive. Defendants' second objection was that the President failed to follow the procedure set forth in the joint resolution. The defendants’ third objection challenged the President's legal power to keep criminal liability alive when he issued the revocation.

Issue:

Was the delegation of legislative power to the executive proper?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court concluded that the first objection was fatal to the indictment because the executive was permitted to exercise legislative power to determine the future efficacy of the law. The court declared that the delegation of administrative powers was necessary and valid; that the broad purposes of the law were established by Congress, and that the issuance of such a permit as the defendant had failed to procure was within the administrative competency of the Secretary. Defendants' second objection, which was that the President failed to follow the procedure set forth in the joint resolution, was without merit. Finally, defendants' third objection, which challenged the President's legal power to keep criminal liability alive when he issued the revocation, was also without merit. Congress knew that the government's right to prosecute was preserved.

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