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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Grimaud - 220 U.S. 506, 31 S. Ct. 480 (1911)


When Congress has legislated and indicated its will, it can give to those who are to act under such general provisions "power to fill up the details" by the establishment of administrative rules and regulations, the violation of which can be punished by fine or imprisonment fixed by Congress, or by penalties fixed by Congress or measured by the injury done.


In separate cases, defendants were indicted for grazing sheep on a forest reserve without having obtained the permission required by the regulations adopted by the Secretary of Agriculture. They demurred on the ground that the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, 26 Stat. 1103, was unconstitutional, in so far as it delegated the power to the Secretary to make rules and regulations and to make a violation thereof a penal offense. When their several demurrers were sustained, appeal was taken by the United States.


Was the Forest Reserve Act unconstitutional for allowing an invalid delegation of legislative power?




The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the judgments upon finding that that the demurrers should not have been sustained. The Court concluded that although the Secretary could not make rules and regulations for any and every purpose, nevertheless, he could as to matters clearly indicated and authorized by Congress. The subjects as to which the Secretary could regulate were defined by Congress. In particular, he was authorized to regulate occupancy and use and to preserve the forests from destruction. A violation of reasonable rules regulating the use and occupancy of the property was made a crime, not by the Secretary, but by Congress. The statute, not the Secretary, fixed the penalty.

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