Judge the Brief

Case Name

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952)

Legal Citation

343 U.S. 579 (1952)

Relevant Case Facts

In 1951 a labor dispute began in the sugar manufacturing industry, and the union called for a strike. Because the nation was involved in the Vietnam War, President Truman issued an executive order commanding the secretary of commerce to seize the nation's steel mills and keep them in operation. Truman cited no statutory authority for taking such an action. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 forbade this type of action by the president. Truman argued that the inherent powers of the office justified such an action despite a law to the contrary. The owners of the steel mills complied with the order under protest and filed suit.

Legal Issue

Can Congress take over an industry in order to prevent a union from striking?


Yes. By a vote of 6-3 the Court ruled against Youngstown Sheet & Tube.


  1. The power to issue an order taking over an industry must stem from a law passed by Congress or from the Constitution itself. There is no statute that authorizes the president to take property as he did here.
  2. Truman's action can be upheld as an exercise of the president's inherent military power as commander-in-chief.
  3. The order cannot be upheld on the basis of the several provisions of the Constitution that grant executive power to the president.
  4. In the president's favor is the fact that his order commands the steel industry to follow policy set by Congress, not the president himself. The lawmaking power in the United States is within Congress's domain, but Congress has clearly chosen to rid itself of that power and give it to the president.

Separate Opinions

  • Frankfurter: concurring
  • Douglas: concurring
  • Jackson: dissenting
  • Burton: concurring
  • Roberts: dissenting
  • Clark: concurring in the judgment of the Court
  • Vinson: dissenting