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

2012-09-19 13:57:54

The Forest Reserve Act of 1891, and subsequent amending Acts, gave the president the power to establish forest preserves. The Act included various statutes governing use of the forests and delegated to the Secretary of Agriculture the power to establish rules and regulations to further Congressional intent with respect thereto. Congress also set punishment for violations of the statutes or the regulations. Among the regulations subsequently promulgated by the secretary was a requirement that the grazing of more than six head of livestock within the forest required a permit.

Grimaud was indicted for grazing sheep on the Sierra Forest Reserve without a permit. He alleged that the Forest Reserve Act was an unconstitutional attempt by Congress to delegate its legislative powers to an administrative officer.

Determining the line that separates the power of the legislature to make laws from administrative authority to make regulations is difficult. The Court found that although grazing was prohibited through regulations established by the secretary rather than by Congress, such a determination was an administrative detail. After Congress has indicated its will, it can lawfully give others the ‘‘power to fill up the details’’ by establishing administrative rules and regulations to carry out that will.

The Court noted that the secretary could not make regulations for any and all purposes but only those that clearly relate to the matters authorized by Congress. A key factor in the decision was the fact that violation of the rules was made a crime and punishment fixed by Congress, not by the secretary.

The case resolved a longstanding conflict of authority within the lower federal courts and was a milestone in establishing the ability of Congress to regulate land use, and its authority to delegate to federal agencies rule-making ability in furtherance thereof.


References and Further Reading

  • Stern, Bill Steven, Permit Value: A Hidden Key to the Public Land Grazing Dispute, M.A. Thesis, The University of Montana, 1998 (available at: ‘‘https://www.rangenet.org/directory/stern/thesis/index.html’’).

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Forest Reserve (or ‘‘General Revision’’) Act of 1891, 26 Stat. 1103; 16 U.S.C. 471
  • Organic Administration Act, 30 Stat. 34; 16 U.S.C. 473

See also Due Process; Federalization of Criminal Law