In the 1936 case of United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation, the Supreme Court upheld an arms embargo imposed by Franklin Roosevelt upon the warring factions in the Chaco conflict. Although Congress authorized the embargo, the Court chose to rely on "the exclusive power of the president to act as sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations." In the ensuing fifty years, commentators have consistently criticized Curtiss-Wright; in contrast, members of the Supreme Court have regularly looked to Curtiss-Wright as guiding precedent. This article examines the manner in which the Court has used Curtiss-Wright to sanction a preeminent president in the field of national security affairs. For decades, the Court relied upon the "sole organ" language of Curtiss-Wright to justify its view of a presidency which frequently transcended the separation of powers. Even in the wake of Vietnam, Watergate, and the congressional resurgence of the 1970s, the Court has looked to Curtiss-Wright to uphold bold and sometimes imaginative interpretations of the law which allowed the president's policy preferences to ultimately prevail.
Northern Illinois University Law Review
"The Reality of Curtiss-Wright,"
Northern Illinois University Law Review: Vol. 16:
2, Article 9.
Anthony Simones, The Reality of Curtiss-Wright, 16 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 411 (1996).