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UNITED STATES v. ALLIED OIL CORP. ET AL.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


decided: April 9, 1951.

UNITED STATES
v.
ALLIED OIL CORP. ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.

Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Jackson, Burton, Minton; Douglas and Clark took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Black

[ 341 U.S. Page 2]

 MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 205 (e) of the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, as amended, authorized the Price Administrator under certain circumstances to institute damage actions against sellers of commodities who charged more than prescribed ceiling prices.*fn1 Pursuant to this section, the consolidated cases now before us were brought in the District Court by the Administrator in his own name "for and on behalf of the United States," and were properly pending there on April 23, 1947.*fn2 On that day the President, in connection with the termination of price controls, promulgated Executive Orders Nos. 9841 and 9842:*fn3 No. 9841, among other things, transferred various price administration functions to the Secretary of Commerce; No. 9842, so far as here material, authorized the Attorney General to conduct certain § 205 (e) litigation "in the name of the United States or otherwise as permitted by law . . . ." In view of these orders the Attorney General promptly moved to substitute the United States as party plaintiff in the present proceedings. Although the district judge granted the motion, he dismissed the complaints in 1950 on the ground that there had been an

[ 341 U.S. Page 3]

     improper substitution because the suits could not be maintained in the name of the United States.*fn4 The Court of Appeals affirmed. 183 F.2d 453. It held that the President in his Executive Orders did not intend to authorize conduct of § 205 (e) actions in the name of the United States. A belief that the President had no power to do so led the court to this conclusion. To resolve the conflict between the decision and those from other circuits,*fn5 we granted certiorari. 340 U.S. 895.

We hold that it was error to construe the Executive Orders as not allowing maintenance of these suits in the name of the United States. It is true that Order No. 9841 which transferred various OPA functions to the Secretary of Commerce empowered the Secretary to "institute, maintain, or defend in his own name civil proceedings in any court . . . , relating to the matters transferred to him, including any such proceedings pending on the effective date of the transfer . . . ." (Emphasis added.)*fn6 But this provision demonstrates no purpose to

[ 341 U.S. Page 4]

     vest exclusive power in the Secretary to maintain all § 205 (e) enforcement actions. By its express terms it is made subject to Executive Order 9842*fn7 which directs the Attorney General to "coordinate, conduct, initiate, maintain or defend" litigation against violators of price control "in the name of the United States or otherwise as permitted by law . . . ."*fn8 All interested government agencies have construed the two orders together as authorizing the Attorney General to carry on § 205 (e) enforcement cases and to do so in the name of the United States. The Emergency Court of Appeals and other courts of appeal have taken the same view.*fn9 We believe that such a reading of the orders is the most reasonable construction of the language employed.

The substitution of the United States in these cases therefore was proper unless, as the Court of Appeals thought, the President lacked power to authorize it. The view below was that § 205 (e) of the Price Control Act permitted enforcement suits to be brought only in the name of the Price Administrator, or, when the bulk of his duties were transferred to the Secretary of Commerce, in the name of the latter. Such a conclusion, however, is certainly not compelled by the section which provides

[ 341 U.S. Page 5]

     merely for the bringing of actions by "the Administrator . . . on behalf of the United States . . . ." There can be no question but that the President as a step in the winding-up process had power to transfer any or all of the price administration functions to the Attorney General. Fleming v. Mohawk Co., 331 U.S. 111, 113-119. Accordingly, Executive Order 9842 could lawfully delegate the control and direction of the present actions to that official. Moreover, nothing in § 205 (e) prevents the Attorney General, who is customarily charged with representing the Government's interests in court, from following his normal procedure of maintaining enforcement suits in the name of the United States itself.*fn10 No unfairness to the defendants will result. Regardless of captions, the issues in these cases could not change and the real party-in-interest plaintiff has always been the same. Cf. United States v. Remund, 330 U.S. 539, 542-543. The handling of this litigation in the name of the United States is a fair and orderly method for carrying out the congressional mandate to wind up the OPA affairs. These cases should not have been dismissed.*fn11

Reversed.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS and MR. JUSTICE CLARK took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Disposition

183 F.2d 453, reversed.


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