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Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer

Citation. 343 U.S. 579, 72 S. Ct. 863, 6 L. Ed. 1153, 1952 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Steel workers threatened to strike and shutdown all steel mills throughout the United States. To avoid this potential harm to the national defense, the President issued an executive order placing control of all mills in the hands of the Secretary of Commerce.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The President is limited to vetoing and suggesting laws; he is not to create laws.


Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. (Petitioner) complied with the Executive order but is now refuting the authority because Congress did not approve the order.
United Steelworkers and steel mill owners failed to come to a labor agreement over a period of several days.
A strike was ordered to begin, but the President issued his executive order to prevent the strike. The order seized all steel companies and forced the presidents to serve as operating managers under the direction of the Secretary of Commerce.


Did the President exceed the limit of his powers by issuing the seizure of all steel mills?


Yes. The President may not make such an order without the direction of the Congress or under the express authority of the United States Constitution.


The President was justified in his actions because the world is still recovering from war and he kept the Congress fully informed of his actions.
Concurrence. The President’s power to issue orders is limited.
Justice Jackson: The President’s power is at its lowest when he acts without the support of Congress. The power is equivalent to his Constitutional power minus the Constitutional power of Congress over the matter.
Justice Douglas: The existence of an emergency does not create powers for the President.
Justice Frankfurter: Presidential power to seize property has been granted only when “war is imminent”, there are “needs of public safety”, or of national security or defense.


The only time an order such as this would be sustained would be in the “theater of war.” In that case alone it would be appropriate for a military commander to take control of a supply center to prevent the disruption of the war efforts. Here, there was no such danger, only a perceived threat. Furthermore, the President acted alone without the support of Congress.

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