Sanctions Implementing Presidential Directives.

To imple- ment his directives as Commander-in-Chief in wartime, and especially those which he issued in governing labor disputes, President Roosevelt often resorted to “sanctions,” which may be described as penalties lacking statutory authorization. Ultimately, the President sought to put sanctions in this field on a systematic basis. The order empowered the Director of Economic Stabilization, on receiving a report from the National War Labor Board that someone was not complying with its orders, to issue “directives” to the appropriate department or agency requiring that privileges, benefits, rights, or preferences enjoyed by the noncomplying party be withdrawn.161

Sanctions were also occasionally employed by statutory agencies, such as OPA, to supplement the penal provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act of January 30, 1942.162 In Steuart & Bro. v. Bowles,163 the Supreme Court had the opportunity to regularize this type of executive emergency legislation. Here, a retail dealer in fuel oil was charged with having violated a rationing order of OPA by obtaining large quantities of oil from its supplier without surrendering ration coupons, by delivering many thousands of gallons of fuel oil without requiring ration coupons, and so on, and was prohibited by the agency from receiving oil for resale or transfer for the ensuing year. The offender conceded the validity of the rationing order in support of which the suspension order was issued but challenged the validity of the latter as imposing a penalty that Congress had not enacted and asked the district court to enjoin it.

The court refused to do so and was sustained by the Supreme Court in its position. Justice Douglas wrote for the Court: “[W]ithout rationing, the fuel tanks of a few would be full; the fuel tanks of many would be empty. Some localities would have plenty; communities less favorably situated would suffer. Allocation or rationing is designed to eliminate such inequalities and to treat all alike who are similarly situated. . . . But middlemen—wholesalers and retailers—bent on defying the rationing system could raise havoc with it. . . . These middlemen are the chief if not the only conduits between the source of limited supplies and the consumers. From the viewpoint of a rationing system a middleman who distributes the product in violation and disregard of the prescribed quotas is an inefficient and wasteful conduit. . . . Certainly we could not say that the President would lack the power under this Act to take away from a wasteful factory and route to an efficient one a precious supply of material needed for the manufacture of articles of war. . . . From the point of view of the factory owner from whom the materials were diverted the action would be harsh. . . . But in times of war the national interest cannot wait on individual claims to preference. . . . Yet if the President has the power to channel raw materials into the most efficient industrial units and thus save scarce materials from wastage it is difficult to see why the same principle is not applicable to the distribution of fuel oil.”164 Sanctions were, therefore, constitutional when the deprivations they wrought were a reasonably implied amplification of the substantive power which they supported and were directly conservative of the interests which this power was created to protect and advance. It is certain, however, that sanctions not uncommonly exceeded this pattern.165


E.O. 9370, 8 Fed. Reg. 11463 (1943). [Back to text]
56 Stat. 23 (1942). [Back to text]
322 U.S. 398 (1944). [Back to text]
322 U.S. at 405–06. [Back to text]
E. Corwin, supra, at 249–250. [Back to text]