Yakus and the Administrative State
- Author(s): James Conde, Michael Greve
- Date Posted: 2015
- Legal Studies #: LS 15-43
- Availability: Full text (most recent) on SSRN
In Yakus v. United States (1944), the U.S. Supreme Court sustained the conviction of a Boston meat dealer accused of violations of the Emergency Price Control Act and of price regulations issued by the federal Office of Price Administration (OPA)—without affording the accused an opportunity to challenge the validity of the rules under which he was convicted. The case is now mostly forgotten; in Supreme Court opinions and scholarly treatises, it appears (if at all) as a wartime embarrassment or a marginal case about the exhaustion of administrative procedures. At the time, though, Yakus was viewed by combatants on all sides as a case that would define the contours of constitutional government and of the emerging administrative state. Prominent textbooks of the post-War era afford prominent status to Yakus as a foundational case for Administrative Law.
This article tells the story of Yakus v. United States. Close examination of the litigation and its context, we argue, shows that Yakus was not an awkward wartime case that is easily cabined in technical exhaustion doctrines: it is in fact foundational to the modern administrative state. The Yakus lessons that we have forgotten are the ones that we want to forget.