Dames & Moore v. Regan

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Dames & Moore v. Regan
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued June 24, 1981
Decided July 2, 1981
Full case name Dames & Moore v. Donald T. Regan, Secretary of the Treasury, et al.
Citations 453 U.S. 654 (more)
101 S.Ct. 2972; 69 L.Ed.2d 918
Executive orders dissolving judgments and suspending pending civil claims against Iranian government were constitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan, Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by Burger, Brennan, Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun
Concurrence Stevens, in part
Concur/dissent Powell
Laws applied
IEEPA (50 U.S.C. §1702)

Dames & Moore v. Regan, 453 U.S. 654 (1981) was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with President Jimmy Carter's Executive Order 12170, which froze Iranian assets in the United States on November 14, 1979, in response to the Iran hostage crisis which began on November 4, 1979.


After the inauguration of Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1981, the Reagan administration agreed with Iran to terminate legal proceedings in U.S. courts involving claims by U.S. nationals against Iran, to nullify attachments against Iranian property entered by U.S. courts to secure any judgments against Iran, and to transfer such claims from U.S. courts to a newly created arbitration tribunal. These agreements were implemented by executive orders.


In a 8-1 decision, the opinion of the court was delivered by Justice William H. Rehnquist, which upheld these actions by the Reagan administration and "dismissed a $3 million lawsuit from private firm Dames & Moore against Treasury Secretary Don Regan, filed to recover a debt incurred by the Shah of Iran’s government."[1] The Court found that the administration's actions were authorized by law by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The Supreme Court also approved the suspension of claims filed in U.S. courts even though no specific statutory provision authorized that step. In so doing, the Court relied on inferences drawn from related legislation, a history of congressional acquiescence in executive claims settlement practices, and past decisions recognizing broad executive authority. The Court also "substantially refined the applicable test" of the seminal 1952 case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer[2] and cemented Justice Robert H. Jackson's concurring opinion in that case as "canonical".[3]

Rehnquist wrote the opinion in this "highly complex and historic case" in eight days.[4]


This decision has been criticized for taking "an exceptionally deferential view of executive power",[5] in particular by relying on inferences from statutes that do not directly deal with certain subjects at hand and, especially, on legislative acquiescence in executive activity.

After Rehnquist's death, Justice John Paul Stevens cited Dames & Moore as one of his two favorite Rehnquist opinions, along with Leo Sheep Co. v. U.S.[4]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Wohlsetter, John (2011-03-02) Hostage Hell is a Civilized Country's Dilemma, Human Events.
  2. ^ McCarthy, Andrew (2010-02-04) ‘Merely Organized to Convict’, National Review.
  3. ^ Griffin, Stephen (2008-10-10) A "Domestic" Case? Mysteries of Youngstown, Balkinization.
  4. ^ a b Denniston, Lyle (2009-12-10) WHR enters Court’s pantheon, SCOTUSblog.
  5. ^ Liptak, Adam and Purdum, Todd (2005-07-31) As Clerk for Rehnquist, Nominee Stood Out for Conservative Rigor, New York Times.

External links[edit]