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Dames and Moore v. Regan

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Significance: The Supreme Court upheld actions taken by President Jimmy Carter during the Iran hostage crisis, expanding the U.S. president's broad power to act in foreign affairs.


U.S. embassy personnel in Iran were taken captive in 1979 and held hostage by Iranians. To resolve the crisis before leaving office in January, 1981, President Jimmy Carter signed several executive orders implementing certain actions that met a number of Iranian conditions in return for release of the hostages. The actions included ending legal actions of U.S. citizens and nationals against Iran, voiding attachments against Iranian property in U.S. courts to satisfy judgments against Iran, and transfer of such claims to a new arbitration panel. The Supreme Court upheld these actions even when it was impossible to show that they were authorized by law. Some actions were covered by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, but others lacked statutory authority. However, the Court relied on past congressional practice and court decisions granting broad executive authority in foreign affairs. The decision was criticized for granting the executive branch extremely broad powers in foreign affairs.