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

  • Grimaud and some other people were letting their sheep graze in the Sierra Forest Reserve without a permit. They were fined. They appealed.
    • The Forestry Reserve Act (30 Stat. 35) authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to make regulations about the use of Forest Reserves.
    • Grimaud argued that the Forestry Reserve Act was unconstitutional because it was an impermissible delegation of authority (aka a violation of the Non-Delegation Doctrine).
      • Basically, the Non-Delegation Doctrine says that only Congress is empowered to write laws, the Executive Branch cannot write laws. So Congress is forbidden from giving an Executive Branch Agency (like USDA) the power to write laws.
      • See Yakus v. United States (321 U.S. 414 (1944)).
  • The Trial Court dismissed the case. The US appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. The US appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found the Forestry Reserve Act constitutional.
    • The US Supreme Court found that it would be impractical for Congress to provide general regulations for grazing rights, and therefore it is within their power to confer that power to an Administrative Agency (in this case USDA).
    • The Court found that Congress may delegate the power to "fill up details" where it has indicated its will in the Statute, and it may make violations of such regulations punishable as indicated in the Statute.
    • The Court noted that Congress cannot delegate legislative power to an Administrative Agency.
  • Basically, this case said that it would be impractical for Congress to set all the little nitpicky rules and regulations that are required. So, they are allowed to set broad policies (aka intelligible principles), and allow an Administrative Agency to write the specific regulations and come up with the details.
    • See the later case of Whitman v. American Trucking Ass'n (531 U.S. 457 (2001)), which upheld the Clean Air Act's broad delegation of authority to the EPA to set air quality standards.