Yakus v. United States

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In Yakus v. United States, 321 U.S. 414 (1944), the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a conviction for violation of price controls during World War II and denied the defendant an opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the price controls because Congress had withdrawn that issue from all federal courts except during a limited time before a newly created court, the Emergency Court of Appeals.

Justice Harlan Fiske Stone wrote the opinion for the 6-3 Court. He wrote:

As we have seen, Congress, through its power to define the jurisdiction of inferior federal courts and to create such courts for the exercise of the judicial power, could, subject to other constitutional limitations, create the Emergency Court of Appeals, give to it exclusive equity jurisdiction to determine the validity of price regulations prescribed by the Administrator, and foreclose any further or other consideration of the validity of a regulation as a defense to a prosecution for its violation.

The Court continued:

Unlike most penal statutes and regulations whose validity can be determined only by running the risk of violation, see Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 163, the present statute provides a mode of testing the validity of a regulation by an independent administrative proceeding. There is no constitutional requirement that that test be made in one tribunal rather than in another, so long as there is an opportunity to be heard and for judicial review which satisfies the demands of due process, as is the case here. This was recognized in Bradley v. Richmond, supra, and in Wadley Southern Ry. Co . v. Georgia, supra, 667, 669, and has never been doubted by this Court. And we are pointed to no principle of law or provision of the Constitution which precludes Congress from making criminal the violation of an administrative regulation, by one who has failed to avail himself of an adequate separate procedure for the adjudication of its validity, or which precludes the practice, in many ways desirable, of splitting the trial for violations of an administrative regulation by committing the determination of the issue of its validity to the agency which created it, and the issue of violation to a court which is given jurisdiction to punish violations. Such a requirement presents no novel constitutional issue.
No procedural principle is more familiar to this Court than that HN18Go to the description of this Headnote. A constitutional right may be forfeited in criminal as well as civil cases by the failure to make timely assertion of the right before a tribunal having jurisdiction to determine it.

Justices Owen Roberts, Wiley Rutledge and Frank Murphy dissented.