Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United States

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In Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United States (1935), the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the National Recovery Act (NRA), the centerpiece of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Under the NRA, business groups would agree on codes involving prices, conditions of sale, labor agreements, and other matters, which would then be promulgated by the president as law. The Court held that this constituted an unconstitutional delegation of power, a problem that probably could have been remedied by more carefully written legislation. The deeper problem was whether the federal government’s power over interstate commerce was broad enough to reach such relatively small businesses as the Schechter Poultry Corporation. While Schechter bought almost all of its poultry from suppliers in New Jersey, it sold it locally in New York. The Court, speaking through Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, said that Schechter’s connection to “commerce among the states” was so remote that “to find immediacy or directness here is to find it almost everywhere.” To allow the reach of the commerce power to extend to small businesses such as the Schechter Poultry Corporation would blur all distinction between what is national and what is local, and invade the powers reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.

Ellis Katz

Last Updated: 2006

SEE ALSO: Commerce among the States; Tenth Amendment