• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court voided a congressional enactment on the grounds that it unconstitutionally made a vague delegation of power to executive branch agencies.

In Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan[case]Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan[Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan], Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States[case]Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States[Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States] (1935), and Carter v. Carter Coal Co.[case]Carter v. Carter Coal Co.[Carter v. Carter Coal Co.] (1936), the Supreme Court attempted to limit the later widespread congressional practice of transferring its constitutional lawmaking responsibility by delegating the hard decisions or the actual wording to executive branch agencies. In Panama, the Court addressed only the single section challenged by the refining company, but the Court addressed broader issues in Schechter.Power, delegation of;Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan[Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan]Separation of powers;Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan[Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan]

Chief Justice Charles Evans HughesHughes, Charles Evans;Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan[Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan] wrote the opinion for the 8-1 majority holding that the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) was unconstitutional because Congress delegated its lawmaking power to the executive branch through excessively vague legislation. Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo dissented, arguing that the national economic emergency of the Great Depression justified this vague delegation of power. The Court never overturned these three cases but later ignored its own rulings. From time to time, the Court appeared willing to take up the issue of vague delegation of lawmaking power as in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha[case]Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha[Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha] (1983) and Bowsher v. Synar[case]Bowsher v. Synar[Bowsher v. Synar] (1986), but it did not do so in any consistent fashion. These cases continue to be valid, but only on the narrow issues raised in those particular cases.

Bowsher v. Synar

Carter v. Carter Coal Co.

Delegation of powers

Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha

Mistretta v. United States

Morrison v. Olson

Rule of law

Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States

Separation of powers

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