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United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp

Citation. 299 U.S. 304, 57 S.Ct. 216, 81 L.Ed. 255 (1936).
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Brief Fact Summary.

Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation was convicted of selling arms to warring nations in South America in violation of an Executive Order made pursuant to a joint resolution of Congress.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The President has plenary authority in the conduct of foreign affairs.


The Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation (Curtiss-Wright), a weapons manufacturer, sold fighter planes and bombers to Bolivia during the Chaco War, during which Paraguay and Bolivia contested control of a semi-arid region. This violated a joint resolution of Congress and a proclamation issued by President Roosevelt, which banned U.S. weapons manufacturers from aiding either side of the war. Curtiss-Wright was indicted for conspiracy to sell machine guns to Bolivia. Challenging its indictment, Curtiss-Wright argued that Congress had violated the non-delegation doctrine in allowing the executive branch to make decisions that were properly left to the legislature.


Did Congress unconstitutionally delegate legislative power to the President in matters of foreign affairs?


Congress did not unconstitutionally delegate legislative power to the President.


The powers of the federal government in respect of foreign affairs and those in respect of domestic affairs are different. The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations. Importantly, this is not an authority vested in the President by an exertion of legislative power, but rather a plenary power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations.

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