On April 29, three weeks after the executive order was issued, Judge David A. Pine halted the seizure.
The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit put the lower court ruling on hold, so long as the government immediately appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
Solicitor General Phillip Perlman
The Vinson Court (1949-1953). Seated, from left to right: Justices Felix Frankfurter and Hugo L. Black, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, Jr.,, and Justices Stanley F. Reed and William O. Douglas. Standing, from left to right: Justices Tom C. Clark, Robert H. Jackson, Harold Burton, Sherman Minton
The vote in Youngstown was 6-3.
President Truman cited three provisions of the Constitution that gave him the power to issue the executive order: The vesting clause in Article II, Section 1, the Commander in Chief Clause in Article II, Section 2, and the Take Care Clause in Article III, Section 3.
“The President had no power to act except in those cases expressly or implicitly authorized by the Constitution or an act of Congress.”
“Congress rejected an amendment which would have authorized such governmental seizures in cases of emergency.”
"A systematic, unbroken, executive practice, long pursued to the knowledge of the Congress and never before questioned . . . may be treated as a gloss on ‘executive power’ vested in the President § 1 of Art. II.”
“The President has no power to raise revenues, That power is in the Congress by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.”
“The branch of government that has the power to pay compensation for a seizure is the only one able to authorize a seizure or make lawful one that the President has effected.”
Justice Jackson had previously served as President Roosevelt’s Attorney General. He admitted that there is a “poverty of really useful and unambiguous authority applicable to concrete problems of executive power.”
"Isolated clauses” of the Constitution cannot resolve most problems.
Applying this framework, Justice Jackson found that President Truman's executive order fell within the third zone. Congress did not authorize the President to seize the steel mills, and the President lacked the inherent Article II authority to seize the mills.
Chief Justice Vinson explained that Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and others, “dealt with national emergencies by acting promptly and resolutely to enforce legislative programs,” even “without explicit statutory authorization.”
President Truman could “faithfully execute the laws by acting in an emergency to maintain the status quo, thereby preventing collapse of the legislative programs until Congress could act.”
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer (1952) is one of the Supreme Court’s most important decisions concerning the separation of powers between the President, the Congress, and the judiciary. The Supreme Court resolved the Steel Seizure Case, as the case is also known, in less than two months between April and June 1952. To understand this case, we first have to recount the history of the Korean War — one of our most forgotten wars.
From 1950-1953, the United States was engaged in a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Congress did not declare war on Korea. Instead, the United Nations Security Council authorized the conflict. The United States became a member of the United Nations after the Senate approved a treaty in 1945. President Harry S. Truman’s administration argued that this treaty gave him the power to prosecute the conflict in Korea even in the absence of a formal declaration of war.