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Sunday, January 08, 2023

The Origin of the "Zone of Twilight"

Until I began researching my book on Justice Jackson's Youngstown concurrence, I did not know that he probably got the phrase "zone of twilight" from an earlier Attorney General opinion.

In 1937,  Assistant Solicitor General Golden W. Bell wrote a memo on "The President in the Field of Foreign Relations." The memo was a response to the Neutrality Acts that were moving through Congress at that time. After summarizing the inconsistent history and practice, Bell concluded that public opinion was the most important factor in assessing difficult line-drawing questions on executive power. He then said:

"In the field of foreign relations, the Chief Executive moves in a zone of twilight where he may proceed with assurance of his powers under the Constitution only when the people follow and approve."

This line is not identical to Jackson's, of course, but it does capture some of the spirit of Category 2 of Youngstown. Moreover, Bell's opinion appears to be the source of the some the citations in Jackson's opinion (for example, the competing views of Hamilton and Madison and TR and Taft on executive power). Jackson was an Assistant AG in 1937, which means that he could have seen the opinion then.

I don't know anything about Bell other than that he served from 1935 to 1939. But I hope to learn more about him.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on January 8, 2023 at 09:00 AM | Permalink


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