The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOLTZOFF
On April 8, 1952, the President of the United States issued an Executive Order No. 10340 entitled 'Directing the Secretary of Commerce to Take Possession of and Operate the Plants and Facilities of Certain Steel Companies.'
The principal provision of this Executive Order reads as follows:
'The Secretary of Commerce is hereby authorized and directed to take possession of all or such of the plants, facilities, and other property of the companies named in the list attached hereto, or any part thereof, as he may deem necessary in the interests of national defense; and to operate or to arrange for the operation thereof and to do all things necessary for, or incidental to, such operation.'
Acting pursuant to this Executive Order, the Secretary of Commerce took possession of the plants, facilities, and other properties of certain companies engaged in the manufacture of steel. Among them are the three companies who are plaintiffs in the three actions now before the Court.
The order of seizure was accompanied by a lengthy telegram addressed to the president of each company, whereby the president was being called upon, as a loyal and patriotic citizen, to serve as, and was appointed operating manager for the United States, of the properties of the company. The president of the company, as such operating manager, was authorized and directed to continue operations for the United States. In other words, the management of the company was in each instance left in charge of the operation of the plant, subject to Government control.
An application for a temporary restraining order involves the invocation of a drastic remedy which a court of equity ordinarily does not grant, unless a very strong showing is made of a necessity and desirability of such action. The application is, of necessity, addressed to the discretion of the court. It is not sufficient to show that the action sought to be enjoined is illegal. It is, in addition, essential to make a showing that the drastic remedy of an injunction is needed in order to protect the plaintiff's rights. In reaching its decision, the court must arrive at a balance of equities, and consider not only the alleged legality or illegality of the action taken, but also other circumstances that may appeal to the discretion of the court.
There are several matters that the court must weigh in this instance. Although, nominally, and technically, an injunction, if granted, would run solely against the defendant Sawyer, actually and in essence it would be an injunction against the President of the United States, because it would have the effect of nullifying and stopping the carrying out of the President's Executive Order for the seizure of the plants. It is very doubtful, to say the least, whether a Federal Court has authority to issue an injunction against the President of the United States, in person, State of Mississippi v. Johnson, 4 Wall. 475, 18 L. Ed. 437. In that case, Chief Justice Chase made the following statement, 4 Wall. at page 500:
'The Congress is the legislative department of the Government; the President is the executive department. Neither can be restrained in its action by the judicial department; though the acts of both, when performed, are, in proper cases, subject to its cognizance.'
This does not mean that the President is above the law, or that he has unlimited powers, but merely that the coercive remedy of an injunction may not be directed against him, just as it may not be directed against the Congress.
Another circumstance that must be considered is whether the plaintiffs will sustain irreparable damage if a temporary restraining order were denied. The court heard counsel at length on this point, because that is a matter that seemed to the court to be of vital importance. The situation, as it presents itself at this stage, is that the president of each company, and his managerial staff, remain in control and are named as operating agents for the United States. They have not been dispossessed or displaced. They are still in possession and will continue to conduct the company's operations.
True, plaintiffs fear that other drastic steps may be taken which would displace the management or which would supersede its control over labor relations. It seems to the court that these possibilities are not sufficient to constitute a showing or irreparable damage. If these possibilities arise, applications for restraining orders, if they are proper and well-founded, may be renewed and considered.
On the other hand, to issue a restraining order against Mr. Sawyer, and in effect nullify an order of the President of the United States, promulgated by him to meet a nation-wide emergency problem is something that the court should not do, ...