American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases

By Alpheus Thomas Mason; William M. Beaney | Go to book overview
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Yakus v. United States

321 U.S. 414, 64 S.Ct. 660, 88 L.Ed. 834 ( 1944)

The basic scheme of the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, involved in the Yakus case, was as follows. An administrator was given power to fix prices. Anyone who thought the prices unfair could protest and receive a hearing before the Administrator, whose determination was reviewable on complaint by the Emergency Court of Appeals, and on certiorari was reviewable by the Supreme Court. No temporary injunction against enforcement of the act could be issued until the Emergency Court of Appeals had dealt with the complaint on the merits. Appeals by the Administrator could postpone the application of the injunction even longer. Further, the trial courts, state and federal, were denied the power to examine the validity of any regulation, order, or price schedule, in any criminal prosecutions instituted under the act.

The defendants were convicted of several violations of the act. Without availing themselves of special appeal features of the act, they attempted to raise the issue of constitutionality. The Supreme Court rejected their argument that the delegation of price fixing to the Administrator was unconstitutional. The following excerpts concern the validity of the special form of review provided.

Opinion of the Court by MR. CHIEF JUSTICE STONE, announced by MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS. . . .

That Congress has constitutional authority to prescribe commodity prices as a war emergency measure, and that the Act was adopted by Congress in the exercise of that power, are not questioned here, and need not now be considered save as they have a bearing on the procedural features of the Act later to be considered which are challenged on constitutional grounds. . . .

We come to the question whether the provisions of the Act, so construed as to deprive petitioners of opportunity to attack the Regulation in a prosecution for its violation, deprive them of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. At the trial, petitioners offered to prove that the Regulation would compel them to sell beef at such prices as would render it impossible for wholesalers such as they are, no matter how efficient, to conduct their business other than at a loss. Section 4 (d) declares that "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require any person to sell any commodity. . ." Petitioners were therefore not required by the Act, nor so far as appears by any other rule of law, to continue selling meat at wholesale if they could not do so without loss. But they argue that to impose on them the choice either of refraining from sales of beef at wholesale or of running the risk of numerous criminal prosecutions and suits for treble damages authorized by § 205(e), without the benefit of any temporary


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American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases
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