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Law School Case Brief

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer - 103 F. Supp. 978 (D.D.C. 1952)


An application for a temporary restraining order involves the invocation of a drastic remedy which a court of equity ordinarily does not grant, unless a very strong showing is made of a necessity and desirability of such action. The application is, of necessity, addressed to the discretion of the court. It is not sufficient to show that the action sought to be enjoined is illegal. It is, in addition, essential to make a showing that the drastic remedy of an injunction is needed in order to protect the plaintiff's rights. In reaching its decision, the court must arrive at a balance of equities, and consider not only the alleged legality or illegality of the action taken, but also other circumstances that may appeal to the discretion of the court.


The President of the United States issued an Executive Order No. 10340 entitled "Directing the Secretary of Commerce to Take Possession of and Operate the Plants and Facilities of Certain Steel Companies." Under this EO, the Secretary took possession of the Bethlehem Steel Company’s, Republic Steel Corporation’s and Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company’s steel manufacturing plants. The order came with a telegram calling upon the president of each company to serve as the operating manager of the companies' properties on behalf of the government. The three companies each filed an application for a temporary restraining order to restrain Charles Sawyer, the Secretary of Commerce, from continuing in possession of the plants, and in any other way from acting under the order of seizure.


Should the temporary restraining order be denied?




The court denied the motion for a temporary restraining order.  The court noted that an injunction would in essence be an injunction against the President of the United States, because it would have the effect of nullifying and stopping the carrying out of the President's Executive Order for the seizure of the plants. The court ruled that the coercive remedy of an injunction may not be directed against the President nor the Congress.

The Court also noted that the steps taken were insufficient to constitute a showing of irreparable damage. The companies were left in charge of operation subject to governmental control. The companies also had adequate remedy in suits for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act or in an action for a taking of property.

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