ArtI.S1.4.3 Delegating Legislative Power to Fill Up the Details

Article I, Section 1:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

In finding a power to “fill up the details,” the Court in Wayman v. Southard1 rejected the contention that Congress had unconstitutionally delegated power to the federal courts to establish rules of practice.2 Chief Justice John Marshall agreed that the rulemaking power was a legislative function and that Congress could have formulated the rules itself, but he denied that the delegation was impermissible. Since then, of course, Congress has authorized the Supreme Court to prescribe rules of procedure for the lower federal courts.3

Congress has long provided for the Executive and Judicial Branches to fill up the details of statutes. For example, the Court upheld a statute requiring the manufacturers of oleomargarine to have their packages “marked, stamped and branded as the Commissioner of Internal Revenue . . . shall prescribe,” rejecting a contention that the prosecution was not for violation of law but for violation of a regulation.4 “The criminal offence,” said Chief Justice Melville Fuller, “is fully and completely defined by the act and the designation by the Commissioner of the particular marks and brands to be used was a mere matter of detail.” 5 Kollock was not the first such case,6 and it was followed by a multitude of delegations that the Court sustained. In one such case, for example, the Court upheld an act directing the Secretary of the Treasury to promulgate minimum standards of quality and purity for tea imported into the United States.7

23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 1 (1825). back
Act of May 8, 1792, § 2, 1 Stat. 275, 276. back
The power to promulgate rules of civil procedure was conferred by the Act of June 19, 1934, 48 Stat. 1064; the power to promulgate rules of criminal procedure was conferred by the Act of June 29, 1940, 54 Stat. 688. These authorities are now subsumed under 28 U.S.C. § 2072. In both instances Congress provided for submission of the rules to it, presumably reserving the power to change or to veto the rules. Additionally, Congress has occasionally legislated rules itself. See, e.g., 82 Stat. 197 (1968), 18 U.S.C. §§ 3501–02 (admissibility of confessions in federal courts). back
In re Kollock, 165 U.S. 526 (1897). back
Id. at 533. back
United States v. Bailey, 34 U.S. (9 Pet.) 238 (1835); Caha v. United States, 152 U.S. 211 (1894). back
Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470 (1904). See also United States v. Grimaud, 220 U.S. 506 (1911) (upholding act authorizing executive officials to make rules governing use of forest reservations); ICC v. Goodrich Transit Co., 224 U.S. 194 (1912) (upholding delegation to prescribe methods of accounting for carriers in interstate commerce). back