Supreme Court Cases: Cold War

In 1951, a dispute between the owners of the nation’s steel mills and the steelworkers union during the nation’s involvement in the Korean War eventually led to the union calling for a strike to shut down all of the nation’s steel mills. President Truman issued Executive Order 10340 directing Secretary of Commerce Sawyer to seize control of and operate the mills. Although there was no congressional statute authorizing the President to take such action, Truman based his authority to do this on his constitutional power as Commander-in-Chief. After a U. S. District Court ruled against the President’s action, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court.

By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the President had exceeded his power and thus could not take possession of the country’s steel mills in order to avert a nation-wide strike. Speaking for the majority, Justice Hugo Black wrote: “The President’s power, if any, to issue the [executive order] must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself…The Order cannot properly be sustained as an exercise of the President’s military power as Commander-in-Chief ….Nor can the Order be sustained because of the several provisions of Article II which grant executive power to the President… The power here sought to be exercised is the lawmaking power, which the Constitution vests in the Congress alone, in both good and bad times.”