Lesson Plan: Landmark Supreme Court Case: Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer

Background of Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer

Professors Michael Gerhardt and William Howell talked about the background events and importance of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer Supreme Court Case.


The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution. Its rulings on cases determine the meaning of laws and acts of Congress and the president. Knowing the key decisions of the Supreme Court and the precedents they set is vital in understanding the meaning of laws, how our country has changed over time, and the direction the country is currently headed. In this lesson students will examine the case of Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer.


  • STEP 1.

    As a class, view the following videos and the questions below to lay the foundation for students to understand this case:

    VIDEO CLIP: Background (4:38)

    VIDEO CLIP: Importance of the Steel Industry (3:00)

    VIDEO CLIP: President Truman's Decision to Seize the Steel Industry (5:21)

    • Describe the significance of the Korean War and the lack of a formal declaration of war in the Youngstown Steel Case.

    • Explain President Truman's relationship with the public and his approval rating during this time.

    • What was the state of the economy at this time? What effect did it have on this case? In what way is this case about power?

    • Describe President Truman's relationship with Congress and how that influenced this case.

    • Describe the steel industry and its importance to cities like Youngstown, OH and the U.S. during this time.

    • Explain why the steel workers wanted to go on strike.

    • Explain the advice that President Truman was receiving regarding the steel industry.

    • What did the Council of Economic Advisers say to President Truman? What effect did it have on the decision?

    • Describe President Truman's message to the U.S. explaining his takeover of the Steel Industry.

    • Explain the events that followed President Truman's speech. What were the basic arguments of each side?
  • STEP 2.

    Students can either work independently or in groups to view the following video clips. They should take notes using the handout below:

    Handout: Supreme Court Case: Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer (Google Doc)

  • VIDEO CLIP: Path to the Supreme Court (6:10)

    • Explain the government's initial argument in the district court and how it affected the case then and going forward.

    • How did this case differ from similar cases involving government power during Franklin Roosevelt's term?

    • Describe the decision of the lower federal court.

    • Explain how the case progresses to the Supreme Court following the lower court decision.

    • Why did this case get to the Supreme Court so quickly?
  • VIDEO CLIP: Two Key Questions (2:15)

    • What were the specific questions before the Supreme Court? How did the Court rule on those questions?
  • VIDEO CLIP: The Framework for Executive Action (3:07)

    • Explain the three benchmarks that were established in Justice Jackson's concurrence.
  • VIDEO CLIP: Legacy of the Case (1:08)

    • According to Professor Howell, what is at the heart of this case?

    • In the opinion of Professor Gerhardt, why is this a historic case ?
  • STEP 3.

    As a class, discuss the significance of this case, the precedent it set, and its legacy.

  • STEP 4.

    Choose an activity from C-SPAN Classroom's Deliberations site to engage in a structured student-centered analysis of the case.

Additional Resource


  • Ambivalence
  • Constitutionality
  • Council Of Economic Advisers
  • District Court
  • Expedite
  • Expressed Powers
  • Injunction
  • Korean War
  • Munitions
  • National Security Council
  • Nationalize
  • Presidential Power
  • Price Gauge
  • Profiteers
  • Separation Of Powers
  • Statutes
  • Statutory
  • Supreme Court Clerk
  • Taft-hartley Act
  • United Nations
  • Youngstown Steel And Tube Co.


Judicial BranchSupreme Court CasesU.S. History


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