Truman’s Seizure of the Steel Mills: The Supreme Court’s Landmark Decision
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The 1952 Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer case remains a landmark in constitutional law because of the Supreme Court’s decision to rule President Truman’s seizure of the steel mills illegal. This opinion remains an outlier today and was unexpected at the time, due to the composition of the Court as well as a general trend of judicial acquiescence of the expansion of executive power. This thesis intends to better understand the reasoning behind this exercise of judicial review, focusing on the influence of institutional structure and interests. It concludes that the decision was motivated by the justices’ desire to ensure the institution’s position of relevance in the future by curbing executive power and reasserting the Court’s power of judicial review. This decision was enabled by a unique combination of external factors and provided a rare chance for the Court to reassert itself and enhance its legitimacy in doing so.