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Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, served in office from April 12, 1945 until January 20, 1953.

Probably the best known, and most controversial, case during Truman's Presidency was the 1952 appeal of Youngstown Sheet & Tube, et al., v. Sawyer, which dealt with Truman's attempt to seize steel manufacturers during the Korean War in order to avert a threatened strike by the United Steel Workers of America. Truman believed a strike would shut down production of military equipment and hamper the US war effort.

During previous wars, the government had successfully nationalized private industry, such as the railroads, telegraph system and Smith & Wesson Co., during WW I, and the railroads (again), coal mines, and trucking operations during WW II. In addition, Truman had seized 28 other properties and industries in 1945-46 to force settlement of labor disputes.

Truman authorized the seizure and government operation of most steel manufacturers on April 8, 1952, without consent of Congress. He also refused to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, legislation passed in 1947 by a Congressional override of Truman's veto, that mandated an 8-day "cooling off period" during which embattled management and union representatives were supposed to negotiate a settlement.

Owners of the steel mills got a court injunction against the seizure, which the US appealed. The case was heard by the Supreme Court, which declared the President's actions unconstitutional on the grounds that Truman failed to cite any legislative authority permitting the President to exercise "emergency powers" without the consent of Congress.

The following list details landmark cases decided during Truman's terms of office:

  1. 1946 Morgan v. Virginia
    Ruled that buses transporting people in interstate service could not segregate passengers.

  2. 1946 Hannegan v. Esquire
    Interpreted the federal law criminalizing mailing "obscene" materials, and restricted the authority of the Postmaster General to unilaterally determine what constituted "offensive" material.

  3. 1947 Everson v. Board of Education*
    Ruled in favor of the board of education against a taxpayer challenging the constitutionality of the board using state money to reimburse parents for public transportation to and from parochial schools. Specifically addressed the issue of "separation of church and state."

  4. 1948 Illinois ex. rel. McCullum v. Board of Education
    Ruled that an Illinois law permitting public schools to provide religious instruction using private teachers during school hours was unconstitutional.

  5. 1948 Shelley v. Kraemer
    Struck down restrictive covenants preventing the sale of real estate to African-American and Asian people as unconstitutional, in violation of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection.

  6. 1950 Sweatt v. Painter
    Struck down a Texas law restricting the University of Texas to white students only, despite Texas having set up a separate school for African-American students.

  7. 1950 Communications Association v. Douds
    Upheld a section of the Taft-Hartley Act (1947) restricting benefits of the National Labor Relations Act to any union organization whose officials had not signed an affidavit declaring themselves non-Communist.

  8. 1950 McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents
    Invalidated an Oklahoma law permitting universities to segregate African-American students within classrooms, libraries and cafeterias.

  9. 1951 Dennis et. al. v. United States
    Upheld the Smith Act of 1946 in determining the defendant, a leader of the Communist Party in the United States, represented a "clear and present danger" by advocating for violent overthrow of the U.S. government and affirmed his conviction under the act.

  10. 1952 Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer*
    Ruled that President Truman exceeded his authority by seizing steel manufacturers without the specific approval of Congress, in order to avert a strike by the United Steel Workers of America that would have disrupted arms production during the Korean War. (Also referred to as The Steel Seizure Case)

  11. 1952 Rochin v. California
    Reversed conviction of a man who had been forced to take an emetic so police could retrieve drug evidence against the man's will, on the grounds that the conviction was obtained by violation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

  12. 1952 Burstyn v. Wilson Artistic
    Ruled that movies enjoyed First Amendment protection after a censor in New York denied the movie company a license to show their film (The Miracle) on the grounds that the content was sacrilegious.
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Q: What were the major US Supreme Court cases during Truman's Presidency?
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