Sheet & Tube Co. vs. Sawyer [1952]

Black, J. We are asked to decide whether President was acting within his constional power when he issued an order citing the Secretary of Commerce to take session of and operate most of the Nation's steel mills. The mill owners argue that President's order amounts to lawmaking, legislative function which the Constitution expressly confided to the Congress and to the President The Government's tion is that the order was made on findof the President that his action was necessary to avert a national catastrophe ch would inevitably result from a stopof steel production, and that in meeting grave emergency the President was actwithin the aggregate of his constitutional trs as the Nation's Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States.... Two crucial issues have developed: First. Should final determination of the constitutional validity of the President's order be made in this case which has proceeded no further than the preliminary injunction stage? Second. If so, is the seizure order within the constitutional power of the President ? The President's power, if any, to issue the order must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself. There is no statute that expressly authorizes the President to take possession of property as he did here. Nor is there any act of Congress to which our attention has been directed from which such a power can fairly be implied. Indeed, we do not understand the Government to rely on statutory authorization for this seizure. There are two statutes which do authorize the President to take both personal and real property under certain conditions. However, the Government admits that these conditions were not met and that the President's order was not rooted in either of the statutes. The Government refers to the seizure provisions of one of these statutes (Sec. 201 (b) of the Defense Production Act) as "much too cumbersome, involved, and time-consuming for the crisis which was at hand." Moreover, the use of the seizure technique to solve labor disputes in order to prevent work stoppages was not only unauthorized by any congressional enactment; prior to this controversy, Congress had ret fused to adopt that method of settling labor disputes. When the Taft-Hartley Act was under consideration in 1947, Congress rejected an amendment which would have authorized such governmental seizures in cases of emergency. Apparently it was thought that the technique of seizure, like that of compulsory arbitration, would interfere with the process of collective bargaining. Consequently, the plan adopted in that Act did not provide for seizure under any circumstances. Instead, the plan sought to bring about settlements by use of the customary devices of mediation conciliation. investigation by boards of inquiry, and public reports. In some instances temporary injunctions were authorized to provide coolingoff periods. All this failing, unions were left free to strike after a secret vote by employees as to whether they wished to accept their employer's final settlement offer. It is clear that if the President had authority to issue the order he did, it must be found in some provisions of the Constitution. And it is not claimed that express constitutional language grants this power to the President. The contention is that presidential power should be implied from the aggregate of his powers under the Constitution. Particular reliance is placed on provisions in Article II which say that "the executive Power shall be vested in a President . . ."; that "he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed"; and that he "shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States." The order cannot properly be sustained as an exercise of the President's military power as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The Government attempts to do so by citing a number of cases upholding broad powers in military commanders engaged in day-to-day fighting in a theater of war. Such cases need not concern us here. Even though "theater of war" be an expanding concept, we cannot with faithfulness to our constitutional system hold that the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces has the ultimate power as such to take possession of private property in order to keep labor disputes from stopping production. This is a job for the Nation's lawmakers, not for its military authorities. Nor can the seizure order be sustained because of the several constitutional provisions that grant executive power to the President. In the framework of our Constitution, the President's power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker. The Constitution limits his functions in the lawmaking process to the recommending of laws he thinks wise and the vetoing of laws he thinks bad. And the Constitution is neither lsilent nor equivocal about who shall make laws which the President is to execute. The I first section of the first article says that I "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States...." After granting many powers to the Congress, Article I goes on to provide that Congress may "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof " The President's order does not direct that a congressional policy be executed in a manner prescribed by Congress—it directs that a presidential policy be executed in a manner prescribed by the President. The preamble of the order itself, like that of many statutes, sets out reasons why the President believes certain policies should be adopted, proclaims that these policies as rules of conduct to be followed, and again, like a statute, authorizes a government official to promulgate additional rules and regu lations consistent with the policy proclaimed and needed to carry that policy into execution. The power of Congress to adopt such public policies as those proclaimed by the order is beyond question. It can authorize the taking of private property for public use. It can make laws regulating the relationships between employers and employees, prescribing rules designed to settle labor disputes, and fixing wages and working conditions in certain fields of our economy. The Constitution did not subject this law-making power of Congress to presidential or military supervision or control. It is said that other Presidents without congressional authority have taken possession of private business enterprises in order to settle labor disputes. But even if this be true, Congress has not thereby lost its exclusive constitutional authority to make laws necessary and proper to carry out the powers vested by the Constitution "in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." The Founders of this Nation entrusted the law making 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

The Judgment of the District Court is AFirmed.

V2CSON, C. J., dissenting: . . . In passing upon the question of Presidential powers in this case we must first consider the context in which those powers were exercised. Those who suggest that this is a case involv&Mac245;ng extraordinary powers should be mindful that these are extraordinary times. A world not yet recovered from the devaslation of World War II has been forced to face the threat of another and more terriiying global conflict.... For almost two lull years, our armed forces have been |nothing in Korean suffering casualties of over 108,000 men. Hostilities have not abated. The "determination of the United Nations to continue its action in Korea to Bpeet the aggression" has been reaffirmed. Congressional support of the action in Kom has been manifested by provisions for &Mac245;ncreased military manpower and equipment and for economic stabilization, as hereinafter described.... Even this brief review of our responsibilities in the world community discloses enormity of our undertaking. Success of these measures may, as has often been observed, dramatically infiuence the lives of many generations of the world's peoples yet unborn. Alert to our responsibilities, which Coincide with our own self preservation through mutual security, Congress has enacted a large body of implementing legisetion.... Congress recognized the impact of these deEn;e programs upon the economy. Following the attack in Korea, the President for authority to requisition property and to allocate and fix priorities for scarce goods. In the Defense Production Act of 1950, Congress granted the powers requested Ed, in addition) granted power to stabilize FitS and wages and to provide for settleint of labor disputes arising in the defense program.... The President has the duty to execute the foregoing legislative programs. Their success of execution depends upon continued production of steel and stabilized prices for steel. Accordingly, when the collective barr&Mac245;ng agreements between the Nation's producers and their employees, represented by the United Steel Workers, were due to expire on December 31, lost and a strike shutting down the entire basic steel industry was threatened, the President acted to avert a complete shutdown of steel production.... We ... assume without deciding that the courts may go behind a President's finding of fact that an emergency exists. But there is not the slightest basis for suggesting that the President's finding in this case can be undermined. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction before answer or hearing. Defendant opposed the motion, filing uncontroverted affidavits of Government officials describing the facts underlying the President's order. Secretary of Defense Lovett swore that "a work stoppage in the steel industry will result immediately in serious curtailment of production of essential weapons and munitions of all kinds." He illustrated by showing that 84% of the national production of certain alloy steel is currently used for production of military-end items and that 35% of total production of another form of steel goes into ammunition, 80% of such ammunition now going to Korea. The Secretary of Defense stated that: "We are holding the line (in Korea) with ammunition and not with the lives of our troops." Affidavits of the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Secretary of the Interior, defendant as Secretary of Commerce, and the Administrators of the Defense Production Administration, the National Production Authority, the General Services Administration and the Defense Transport Administration were also filed in the District Court. These affidavits disclose an enormous demand for steel in such vital defense programs as the expansion of facilities in atomic energy, petroleum, power, transportation and industrial production, including steel production. Those charged with administering allocations and priorities swore to the vital part steel production plays in our economy. The affidavits emphasize the critical need for steel in our defense program, the absence of appreciable inventories of steel, and the drastic results of any interruption in steel production.... Accordingly, if the President has any power under the Constitution to meet a critical situation in the absence of express statutory authorization, there is no basis whatever for criticizing the exercise of such power in this case. The steel mills were seized for a public use. The power of eminent domain, invoked in this case, is an essential attribute of sovereignty and has long been recognized as a power of the Federal Government.... Admitting that the Government could seize the mills, plaintiffs claim that the implied power of eminent domain can be exercised only under an Act of Congress; under no circumstances, they say, can that power be exercised by the President unless he can point to an express provision in enabling legislation. This was the view adopted by the District Judge when he granted the preliminary injunction.... Under this view, the President is left powerless at the very moment when the need for action may be most pressing and when no one, other than he, is immediately capable of action. Under this view, he is left powerless because a power not expressly given to Congress is nevertheless found to rest exclusively with Congress. Consideration of this view of executive impotence calls for further examination of the nature of the separation of powers under our tripartite system of Government.... The whole of the "executive Power" is vested in the President. Before entering office, the President swears that he "will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of (his) ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Art. II, sec. 1. This comprehensive grant of the executive power to a single person was bestowed soon after the country had thrown the yoke of monarchy. Only by instilling initiative and vigor in all of the three departments of Government, declared Madison, could tyranny in any form be avoided.... It is thus apparent that the Presidency was deliberately fashioned as an office of power and independence. Of course, the Framers created no autocrat capable of arrogating any power unto himself at any time. But neither did they create an automaton impotent to exercise the powers of Government at a time when the survival of the Republic itself may be at stake. In passing upon the grave constitutional question presented in this case, we must never forget, as Chief Justice Marshall adadmonished, that the Constitution is "intended 3 to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs," and that "(i)ts means are adequate to its ends." Cases do arise t presenting questions which could not have been foreseen by the Framers. In such cases, the Constitution has been treated as 1 a living document adaptable to new situplations. But we are not called upon today to expand the Constitution to meet a new situation. For, in this case, we need only look to history and timehonored principles of constitutional law principles that have been applied consistently by all branches of the Government throughout our history. It is those who assert the invalidity of the Executive Order who seek to amend the Constitution in this case.... The broad executive power granted by Article II to an officer on duty 365 days a year cannot, it is said, be invoked to avert disaster. Instead, the President must confine himself to sending a message to Congress recommending action. Under this messengerboy concept of the Office, the President cannot even act to preserve legislative programs from destruction so that Congress will have something left to act upon. There is no judicial finding that the executive action was unwarranted because there was in fact no basis for the President's finding of the existence of an emergency for, under this view, the gravity of the emergency and the immediacy of the threatened disaster are considered irrelevant as a matter of law. Seizure of the plaintiffs' property is not a pleasant undertaking. Similarly unpleasant to a free country are the draft which disrupts the home and military procurement which causes economic dislocation and compels adoption of price controls, wage stabilization and allocation of materials. The President informed Congress that even a temporary Government operation of plaintiffs' properties was "thoroughly distasteful" to him, but was necessary to prevent immediate paralysis of the mobilization program Presidents have been in the past, and any man worthy of the Office should be in the future, free to take at least interim action necessary to execute legislative programs essential to survival of the Nation. A sturdy judiciary should not be swayed by the unpleasantness or unpopularity of necessary executive action, but must independently determine for itself whether the President was acting, as required by the Constitution, to "take Care that the laws be faithfully executed "