A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v United States 295 U.S. 495 (1935)
As part of the New Deal, the National
Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA),
authorized the President to approve "codes of fair competition," developed
by boards from various industries. The Live Poultry Code established
minimum wages, child labor laws, and union rights in the poultry industry.
Schechter owned a poultry
slaughterhouse in NY. The poultry they processed came from out of state
farms, but was sold to NY retailers. They were violating minimum wage and
"sick chicken" parts of the Live Poultry Code.
The US Supreme Court
unanimously struck down the Live Poultry Code.
The Court felt that the fact
there was a depression did not give Congress enlarged powers.
The Court felt that even
though the poultry came from out of State. The interstate part of the
commerce ended when the birds entered Schechter's slaughterhouse. The
people employed by Schechter were not involved in interstate commerce.
The Court in invalidating
the industrial "codes of fair competition" which the NIRA enabled the
President to issue. The Court held that the codes violated the
constitutional separation of powers as an impermissible delegation of
legislative power to the Executive Branch. The Court also held that the
NIRA provisions were in excess of congressional power under the Interstate
Basically, Congress cannot
give away its power. This is known as the Nondelegation Doctrine.
Congress can authorize
Executive Agencies to make laws, but Congress is supposed to be very
specific about telling the Agency what to do and what not to do. Or
course, in the present day, Executive Agencies operate with only minimal
guidance from Congress.
This narrow reading of the
Commerce Clause was later disavowed by the Court, which began to read
congressional power more expansively in this area.