YAKUS V. UNITED STATES, 321 U. S. 414 (1944)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Yakus v. United States, 321 U.S. 414 (1944)

Yakus v. United States

No. 374

Argued January 7, 1944

Decided March 27, 1944*

321 U.S. 414


1. The Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, as amended, held not to involve an unconstitutional delegation to the Price Administrator of the legislative power of Congress to control commodity prices in time of war. P. 321 U. S. 423.

(a) The Act, the declared purpose of which is to prevent wartime inflation, provides for the establishment of an Office of Price Administration under the direction of a Price Administrator appointed by the President. The Administrator is authorized, after consultation with representative members of the industry so far as practicable, to promulgate regulations fixing prices of commodities which "in his judgment will be generally fair and equitable and will effectuate the purposes of this Act" when, in his judgment, their prices "have risen or threaten to rise to an extent or in a manner inconsistent with the purposes of this Act." The Administrator is directed in fixing prices to give due consideration, so far as practicable, to prices prevailing during a

Page 321 U. S. 415

designated base period, and to make adjustments for relevant factors of general applicability. P. 321 U. S. 419 et seq.

(b) The essentials of the legislative function are preserved when Congress has specified the basic conditions of fact upon whose existence or occurrence, ascertained from relevant data by a designated administrative agency, it directs that its statutory command shall be effective. It is no objection that the determination of facts and the inferences to be drawn from them in the light of the statutory standards and declaration of policy call for the exercise of judgment, and for the formulation of subsidiary administrative policy within the prescribed statutory framework. P. 321 U. S. 424.

(c) Acting within its constitutional power to fix prices, it is for Congress to say whether the data on the basis of which prices are to be fixed are to be confined within a narrow or a broad range. P. 321 U. S. 425.

(d) Congress is not confined to that method of executing its policy which involves the least possible delegation of discretion to administrative officers. P. 321 U. S. 425.

(e) The standards prescribed by the Act, with the aid of the "statement of considerations" required to be made by the Administrator, are sufficiently definite and precise to enable Congress, the courts and the public to ascertain whether the Administrator, in fixing the designated prices, has conformed to those standards. P. 321 U. S. 426.

2. The procedure prescribed by §§ 203 and 204 of the Emergency Price Control Act for determining the validity of the Administrator's price regulations -- by protest to and hearing before the Administrator, whose determination may be reviewed on complaint to the Emergency Court of Appeals and by this Court on certiorari -- is exclusive, and precludes the defense of invalidity of the regulation in a criminal prosecution for its violation. Pp. 321 U. S. 427, 321 U. S. 429.

3. Petitioners, who have not resorted to the procedure prescribed by Congress, can excuse their failure to do so, and can show a denial of constitutional right, only by showing that that procedure is incapable of affording them the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. P. 321 U. S. 434.

4. The provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act, construed to deprive petitioners of opportunity to attack the validity of a price regulation (establishing maximum prices for the sale of certain meats at wholesale) in a prosecution for its violation, held not

Page 321 U. S. 416

on their face incapable of affording due process of law. P. 321 U. S. 435.

(a) Petitioners were not required by the Act, nor by any other rule of law, to continue selling at a loss. P. 321 U. S. 431.

(b) The sixty days' period allowed for protest to the Administrator was not unduly short in view of the power of the Administrator to extend the time for presentation of evidence, and the right given by the Act to apply to the Emergency Court of Appeals for leave to introduce any evidence "which could not reasonably" have been offered to the Administrator. P. 321 U. S. 435.

(c) Since the Administrator's regulations provide for a full oral hearing in appropriate cases, the Court does not consider, in the absence of any application to the Administrator for such a hearing, whether the denial or an oral hearing in any particular case would be a denial of due process. P. 321 U. S. 436.

(d) In the absence of any application to the Administrator, it cannot be assumed that he will deny due process to any applicant. And the Emergency Court of Appeals, and this Court upon certiorari, have full power to correct any denial of due process or other procedural error that may occur in a particular case. Pp. 321 U. S. 434, 321 U. S. 437.

5. Under the circumstances in which the Act was adopted and must be applied, its denial of any judicial stay pending determination of the validity of a regulation does not deny due process. P. 321 U. S. 437.

(a) The statute provides an expeditious means of testing the validity of a price regulation without necessarily incurring any of the penalties provided by the Act. P. 321 U. S. 438.

(b) The due process clause is not violated by a statutory denial of a right to a restraining order or interlocutory injunction to one who has failed to apply for available administrative relief, not shown to be inadequate, from the operation of an administrative regulation, pending determination of its validity. P. 321 U. S. 439.

(c) The award of an interlocutory injunction by courts of equity is not a matter of right, even though irreparable injury may otherwise result to the plaintiff. And the legislative formulation of what would otherwise be a rule of judicial discretion is not a denial of due process or a usurpation of judicial functions. Pp. 321 U. S. 440, 321 U. S. 442.

(d) The public interest may justify legislative authorization of summary action subject to later judicial review of its validity. P. 321 U. S. 442.

6. No principle of law or provision of the Constitution precludes Congress from making criminal the violation of an administrative regulation,

Page 321 U. S. 417

by one who has failed to avail himself of an adequate separate procedure for the adjudication of its validity, or precludes the practice of splitting the trial for violations of an administrative regulation by committing the determination of the issue of its validity to the agency which created it, and the issue of violation to a court which is given jurisdiction to punish violations. P. 321 U. S. 444.

7. The Court does not decide whether one charged with criminal violation of a duly promulgated price regulation may defend on the ground that the regulation is unconstitutional on its face, or whether one who is forced to trial and convicted of violation of a regulation, while diligently seeking determination of its validity by the statutory procedure, may thus be deprived of the defense that the regulation is invalid. P. 321 U. S. 446.

8. The Seventh Amendment's guarantee of a jury trial is inapplicable to a proceeding within the equity jurisdiction of the Emergency Court of Appeals to test the validity of a price regulation. P. 321 U. S. 447.

9. In the present criminal proceeding, there was no denial of the right of trial by jury, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, to a trial by a jury of the State and district where the crime was committed. The question whether petitioners had committed the crime charged in the indictment and defined by Congress, namely, whether they had violated the statute by willful disobedience of a price regulation promulgated by the Administrator, was properly submitted to the jury. P. 321 U. S. 447.

137 F.2d 850, affirmed.

CERTIORARI, 320 U.S. 730, to review the affirmance of convictions for violations of the Emergency Price Control Act.

Page 321 U. S. 418

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