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220 U.S. 506 – Political Law – Basic Principles; Separation of Power – Delegation of Power; Undue delegation of legislative power – Authority to make administrative rules
The US Congress, through the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, provided that the management and regulation of forest reserves should be conferred to the Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary of Agriculture was then authorized to “make provision for the protection against destruction by fire and depredations upon the public forests and forest reservations . . .; and he may make such rules and regulations and establish such service as will insure the objects of such reservation, namely, to regulate their occupancy and use, and to preserve the forests thereon from destruction; and any violation of the provisions of this act or such rules and regulations shall be punished as prescribed by law”.
In 1907, a certain Pierre Grimaud let his herd of sheep graze in a forest reserve. He was later found in violation of the rules and regulations set up by the Secretary of Agriculture. In his defense, Grimaud contended that there was undue delegation of legislative power to the Secretary of Agriculture hence, the rules and regulations allegedly violated by Grimaud are void.
ISSUE: Whether or not there was undue delegation of power to the Secretary of Agriculture.
HELD: No. Under the acts establishing forest reservations, their use for grazing or other lawful purposes is subject to rules and regulations established by the Secretary of Agriculture, and it being impracticable for Congress to provide general regulations, that body acted within its constitutional power in conferring power on the Secretary to establish such rules; the power so conferred being administrative and not legislative, is not an unconstitutional delegation. Congress may delegate 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. Congress cannot delegate legislative power, but the authority to make administrative rules is not a delegation of legislative power, and such rules do not become legislation because violations thereof are punished as public offenses. A violation of the regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture upon which, and the statute authorizing them, this indictment is based, constitutes an offense, and renders the offender liable to punishment in accordance with the terms of the statute.