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Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer

Citation. 103 F. Supp. 569, 30 LRRM 2001 (D.D.C. 1952)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Supreme Court of the United States held that a President may not issue executive orders allowing the seizure of domestic private property in order to keep labor disputes from stopping production.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A President may not use executive authority as a source of power without Congressional approval, to solve problems regarding work stoppages resulting from labor disputes.


During the Korean War, a dispute arose among steel companies causing the President to believe that the proposed work stoppage would result in a vulnerable national defense. As a result, the President issued Executive Order 10340 directing the Secretary of Commerce to take control of the mills and insure that they keep running. The Plaintiffs, companies affected by the Order, brought suit against the Secretary. The District Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Secretary from “continuing seizure and possession of the plants.” Later that day, the Court of Appeals stayed the District Court’s injunction deeming that the issues needed to be addressed by the Supreme Court of the United States.


Whether the President, as Commander in Chief and without Congressional approval, has the ultimate power to take possession of private property in order to keep labor disputes from stopping production.


No. Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirmed. The use of a seizure technique to solve labor disputes in order to prevent work stoppages was not only unauthorized by any congressional enactment, but prior to this controversy, Congress had refused to adopt that method of settling labor disputes. The Constitution limits the President’s functions in the law-making process to the recommending of laws that he thinks are wise and the vetoing of laws he thinks are bad. The founders of this nation entrusted the lawmaking power to the Congress in both good times and bad.


The seizure was temporary in nature. There was no basis for claims of arbitrary action, unlimited powers or dictatorial usurpation of congressional power here. The President acted in full conformity with his duties under the Constitution.
Concurrence. The issue before us can be met, and therefore should be, without attempting to define the President’s powers comprehensively. The President would have had power to issue this Order had Congress not explicitly negated such authority. Congress had expressed its will to withhold such power from the President.
A president may act three ways. First, he may act pursuant to congressional authority in which case he has the most power. Second, the President may act contrary to Congress. In such instances he has the least amount of power. Third, the President may act on his own and has no authority to act as here.


The majority looked to the framework of the constitution to formulate its holding that a President may not use executive power to seize private property in order to prevent work stoppage resulting from a labor dispute.

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