Steel Seizure

Today in Supreme Court History is the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, sometimes commonly referred to as the steel seizure case.

Decided on June 2, 1952, the case was about President Truman’s seizure of the steel factories during the Korean War, while keeping the operating management of the companies in place to run the plants under federal direction. The United Steel Workers had threatened a strike and the President acted to prevent severe disruptions of materials for defense contractors.

President Truman seized the factories on April 8th, 1952, the case was heard by the Supreme Court on May 12th and 13th, and was decided just three weeks later. In striking down the President’s authority to seize private property in a 6 to 3 opinion (with 5 different concurring opinions), the Court held that the President lacked the power to seize the steel mills in the absence of statutory authority conferred on him by Congress.

Maybe, even more important to our democratic system of government and our system of checks and balances, within minutes of the Court's ruling, President Truman ordered the return of the steel mills to their owners.

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