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CourtSpeak: Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer
Presidential Authority Case (1952)

Introduction Read more from
Chapter The Vinson Court (1946–53)

Justice Hugo Black (majority): “The Founders of this Nation entrusted the lawmaking power to the Congress alone in both good and bad times. It would do no good to recall the historical events, the fears of power and the hopes for freedom that lay behind their choice. Such a review would but confirm our holding that this seizure order cannot stand.”

Justice Felix Frankfurter (concurring): “To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress.”

Justice William O. Douglas (concurring): “If we sanctioned the present exercise of power by the President, we would be expanding Article II of the Constitution and rewriting it to suit the political conveniences of the present emergency.”

Justice Robert Jackson (concurring): “When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter.”

Justice Harold Burton (concurring): “The controlling fact here is that Congress, within its constitutionally delegated power, has prescribed for the President specific procedures, exclusive of seizure, for his use in meeting the present type of emergency. Congress has reserved to itself the right to determine where and when to authorize the seizure of property in meeting such an emergency. Under these circumstances, the President’s order of April 8 invaded the jurisdiction of Congress. It violated the essence of the principle of the separation of governmental powers.”

Justice Tom C. Clark (concurring): “I cannot sustain the seizure in question because … Congress had prescribed methods to be followed by the President in meeting the emergency at hand.”

Chief Justice Fred Vinson (dissenting): “Those who suggest that this is a case involving extraordinary powers should be mindful that these are extraordinary times. A world not yet recovered from the devastation of World War II has been forced to face the threat of another and more terrifying global conflict.”

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