Key Facts– The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Jones & Laughlin violated the National Labor Relations Act by discriminating against, coercing, and intimidating union member employees, mainly by firing some of them. Jones & Laughlin argued the Act was unconstitutional.
Issues– Is an act that regulates commerce in a blanket way constitutional? Does the commerce clause grant authority over labor activity?
Holding-Yes and yes.
Results– NLRB’s existence and actions upheld.
Reasoning– Industrial strife can have a serious effect on interstate commerce, and the intent of Congress’s actions on labor relations are intended to moderate or control this potentially deleterious effect. On the other hand, as noted by the dissent, this decision, suddenly interpreting Congress as being able to regulate anything that may impact commerce in some way, might enable Congress to do basically anything they want.
Key Facts– Ogden was licensed by someone with a monopoly on steamboat operation in New York with the right to operate a ferry between New York City and New Jersey. When Gibbons opened a competing service with a federal license, Ogden sued for an injunction.
Procedural History– Ogden won in the New York state courts, but the Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Issues– What does “commerce,” which the federal government can regulate, constitute? Does this power of regulation have limitations?
Holding– Commerce power constitutes power to regulate anything involving commerce between or involving more than one states, or the United States as a whole. Essentially, it is unlimited.
Reasoning– The Constitution gives Congress broad powers to regulate commerce that connects or involves more than one state, and Congress has been doing just that for years without any hint of objection from anyone, by this point.
Key Facts– A federal civil commitment statute gave the Department of Justice the authority to detain mentally ill, sexually dangerous federal prisoners beyond what would normally be their release date. Multiple people fought this after being held under it, arguing the statute was unconstitutional.
Issue– Is indefinite detention by the federal government for mental illness and sexual misconduct constitutional?
Result– The statute is upheld.
Reasoning– This is not a particularly new use of power by Congress, and even if it were, it is well within congressional authority. It accounts for states’ rights, and despite fears, the Court concludes it does not create a police state.
Key Facts– Chadha came to the US and overstayed his student visa. The judge in his deportation hearing, and ultimately the Attorney General, decided that Chadha should not be deported, and that his deportation procedures should therefore be suspended, based on qualifications for that defined by Congress. However, Congress’s legislation had also required that they be permitted to review these decisions. The House issued a resolution (not a legislative action) overruling the Attorney General regarding Chadha.
Procedural History– After the House’s ruling, the immigration judge ordered Chadha deported, and he appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, then to the Court of Appeals. Immigration and Naturalization Services supported the suit. The Court of Appeals found the veto provision permitting Congress to overrule the Attorney General unconstitutional. INS appealed to the Supreme Court, hoping to obtain a decisive ruling.
Issue– Can the legislature enforce legislation including veto power, to be used by one House of Congress, to be exercised during the execution of the legislation?
Holding– No, Congress cannot give itself a veto of executive action, and it cannot take legislative action without both Houses being involved.
Results– Deportation order overturned, legislative veto ruled to have been unconstitutional here.
Reasoning– Veto power is deliberately restricted to the President in the Constitution, and with the legislative veto, Congress arguably trespasses on that territory. Even if this were not an explicitly executive power, the mere fact that it is not a power assigned to the legislature is important and suggestive that Congress should not be able to use it. The legislature’ power is limited very strenuously by the Constitution, perhaps since the legislature was perceived as the branch of government that might most easily and effectively abuse its powers.
Key Facts– The President, concerned that a steel workers’ strike would create a national steel shortage, which he considered likely to be a national security crisis, ordered the seizure of all American steel mills to ensure the continued availability of steel. The Secretary of Commerce complied with the President’s orders and issued his own commands to effect the seizure.
Procedural History– The steel companies began proceedings in District Court, and they obtained an injunction barring the government from holding the mills. The government appealed, and the Court of Appeals stayed the injunction, conditional on the government filing for certiorari. After both the government and steel companies filed for certiorari, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Issues– Was the President acting within his constitutional power when he ordered the Secretary of Commerce to seize and operate most of the nation’s steel mills?
Holding– No, he was not.
Results– Steel mills returned to their owners, and the strike commenced.
Reasoning– There is nothing in the Constitution to suggest the President has authority to seize property and take over businesses, and the impending labor conflict does not change that. Unless Congress grants such authority, there have been no occasions when the President has been able to use it. Since his authority to do this outside of wartime and without Congressional authorization is nonexistent, he was certainly not able to do this.
Key Facts– Congress passed a resolution (not a law) authorizing the President to stop sales of arms to countries involved in the Chaco border dispute. President Roosevelt issued an order prohibiting such sales. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. was indicted for violating the embargo.
Procedural History– Curtiss-Wright Corp. was indicted in District Court, and the Court ruled the legislative delegation of power was improper. Then the United States appealed to the Supreme Court.
Issues– Did Congress improperly delegate legislative authority to the President here? Does the President have the authority to take action of this kind on his own, since this relates to foreign policy?
Holding– The federal government has broad authority on matters of foreign policy, unconstrained by the same rules as domestic policy, and here the government acted appropriately.
Result– Presidential and legislative actions upheld.
Reasoning– Under the Constitution, the President may have enough authority to undertake foreign policy measures like this on his own, because the federal government, and the President in particular, have broad latitude to take action in foreign policy matters under the Constitution. The President’s authority encompasses actions such as those taken here, and when he also has Congress’s backing, his authority is even clearer and less ambiguous.
Key Facts– The US Congress gave President Clinton additional powers under the Line Item Veto Act. He used this to cancel items of new direct spending within spending bills, and New York City sued over lost revenue.
Procedural History-District Court ruled for City of New York, and the Supreme Court took the appeal.
Issue– Can the legislature give the President powers not specified in the Constitution, like the line item veto?
Holding– No, the legislature cannot.
Result– Line Item Veto Act overturned; results of that Act are therefore invalidated.
Reasoning– The Constitution overrules the Congress on the Line Item Veto Act. While Presidents are properly permitted to propose legislation, they cannot then edit that legislation, because that would mean effectively using legislative power, which is not permitted to the Executive under the Constitution.
Key Facts- DC passed a statute against having an unregistered firearm in one’s possession, and they also prohibited registration of handguns. Other types of guns (like rifles) were mandated to be kept either dissembled or bound by trigger locks. Heller sued DC to enjoin the city from enforcing the ban, after he was unable to register a handgun he wanted to keep at home.
Procedural History- Heller sued in Federal District Court, and the judges dismissed. Afterward, Heller appealed to the Court of Appeals, and they invalidated the statutes. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Issue- Is rendering possession of all handguns an unconstitutional action by the DC government?
(Implicit Issue)- How should the Supreme Court interpret the Constitution so as to determine the constitutionality of modern day statutes?
Results- DC’s ban on handguns in the home, along with its prohibition against operable firearms in the home, are overturned.
Holding- The Second Amendment provides for an individual right to bear arms. This right cannot, therefore, be denied by any branch of government, though it can be limited; restrictions like DC’s are unconstitutional.
Reasoning- The holding was based on research into reasonable sources on the time period and the use of language in the Constitution. The court argues that constitutional protections cannot be subject to future assessments by government officials to weigh what is necessary or beneficial, because otherwise, they effectively offer no protection at all.
Key Facts– In June 1972, a break-in occurred at the Watergate building, Democratic National Headquarters. Gradually, high-level White House officials were discovered to be involved in a cover-up. Eventually, it was revealed that there was a secret taping system in the Oval Office, and a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate, Archibald Cox. After the prosecutor attempted to subpoena the Oval Office tapes, the President challenged the subpoena, losing the challenge, and then arranged for Cox to be fired. By 1974, a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, again subpoenaed the President’s tapes. The President agreed to turn over only edited transcripts, rather than the tapes, and then he moved to quash the subpoena.
Procedural History– The US District Court denied the President’s motion to quash the subpoena, and the Supreme Court granted review, prior to consideration by the Court of Appeals.
Issues– Does separation of powers preclude judicial review of executive privilege? If not, does the privilege justify refusal to comply with a subpoena in a criminal proceeding?
Results– Nixon is barred from using privilege here to refuse to comply with the the subpoena.
Court Reasoning– Separation of powers does not defend against judicial review, and while the President’s need to receive candid advice is important, it does not outweigh the need for due process in a criminal proceeding. Thus, a generalized claim of privilege not grounded in national security, diplomatic, or military secrets cannot prevail over a subpoena in such a proceeding.
Holding– Separation of powers does not preclude judicial review of executive privilege. In a criminal case, absent the claim of a need to protect military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, executive privilege cannot be used to evade a subpoena.
Key Facts—As President Adams was leaving the White House, he issued some final appointments that had been authorized by Congress. Some appointments were not delivered by the end of term, and President Jefferson ordered his Secretary of State, James Madison, to withhold them. Marbury, one of the appointees, filed suit with the Supreme Court to get a writ of mandamus to require Madison to give him his commission, a power that had been authorized by Congress with its Judiciary Act of 1789.
Procedural History—The Supreme Court was thought to have original jurisdiction in this matter, and thus it was the only court involved.
Issues—Does the applicant have a right to his commission? If so, do the laws provide a remedy? If so, is the remedy a writ of mandamus from the Supreme Court?
Result—Marbury is deemed to have a right to his commission, and withholding it violates his rights. Thus, Madison is in the wrong. However, the Supreme Court cannot issue the writ of mandamus, because it does not properly have jurisdiction over the case.
Court Reasoning—The Court argues that a commission becomes complete when sealed by the Secretary of State, and further, the law requires that Madison issue the commission, because it is a responsibility assigned to him legally, not a political matter than he can choose to do or not do at his discretion. This is based on the argument that some actions by the executive are protected by executive discretion, but others are legal duties, the fulfillment of which can be examined by the courts. The Court adds, however, Congress’s actions, which they and Marbury interpreted as giving them the authority to hear this particular case, are unconstitutional, because they run contrary to the previously defined limits of Supreme Court responsibility described in the Constitution, which the Court chooses to interpret strictly. The Court further asserts that if a legislative act is counter to the Constitution, it is not law, because the Constitution cannot be permitted to change with the whim of each legislative majority. Further, it is the duty of the judiciary branch to examine these sorts of situations and resolve contradictions, effectively determining what the law is.
Holding—Part of the Judiciary Act is overturned, Congressional and executive authority are deemed subordinate to that of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court assumes the responsibility of reviewing whether or not the other branches’ actions are constitutional, a duty which is referred to as judicial review.
Please let me know what you thought of my efforts in the comments, and if you have any useful additions, please feel free to email me or otherwise share. If I think you make a strong point, I will update the brief. Otherwise, I’ll probably wait to update it until after the Monday class.