Grimaud, United States v. 220 U.S. 506 (1911)

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GRIMAUD, UNITED STATES v. 220 U.S. 506 (1911)

In 1905, Congress authorized the secretary of agriculture to administer public lands set aside as forest reservations. Varying local conditions had made congressional regulation impractical, so the act designated him to make regulations respecting the use of these lands, violation of which would constitute a criminal offense. A federal district court judge held the act unconstitutional on the grounds that it constituted a delegation of legislative power to the executive and that it empowered the secretary to define federal crimes.

Justice joseph r. lamar, speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court, sustained the act. The Court validated the delegation of broad discretion because "the authority to make administrative rules is not a delegation of legislative power." Even the imposition of criminal penalties did not render the regulations legislative. When a statute prescribes the penalty for a violation of administrative regulations, Congress—not the administrative officer—fixes the penalty. The notion, nurtured by this and other cases, that legislative delegation of power had become unimportant received a shock when the Court revived it in 1935 to strike down portions of the national industrial recovery act.

(See panama refining company v. ryan.)

David Gordon

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Grimaud, United States v. 220 U.S. 506 (1911)

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