Dole v. Carter


This action was brought by a U.S. senator against the president to enjoin him from returning the Hungarian coronation regalia to the People’s Republic of Hungary. The Holy Crown of St. Stephen had been held by the Hungarian people as a treasured symbol of their statehood and nationality for nearly 1,000 years. At the close of World War II, it was entrusted to the United States for safekeeping by Hungarian soldiers. In 1977, the governments of the United States and Hungary entered into an agreement returning the crown to Hungary. Many Hungarians living in the United States were opposed to the return of the crown. The plaintiff filed this action seeking an injunction against delivery of the crown to Hungary on the ground that such action was tantamount to a treaty undertaken by the president without the prior advice and consent of the Senate.

Save your time - order a paper!

Get your paper written from scratch within the tight deadline. Our service is a reliable solution to all your troubles. Place an order on any task and we will take care of it. You won’t have to worry about the quality and deadlines

Order Paper Now


We turn now to the plaintiff’s argument that the agreement to return the coronation regalia to Hungary in and of itself constitutes a treaty which must be ratified by the Senate. It is well established, and even plaintiff admits, that the United States frequently enters into international agreements other than treaties. Indeed, as of January 1, 1972, the United States was a party to 5,306 international agreements, only 947 of which were treaties and 4,359 of which were international agreements other than treaties. These “other agreements” appear to fall into three categories: (1) socalled congressional-executive agreements, executed by the President upon specific authorizing legislation from the Congress; (2) executive agreements pursuant to treaty, executed by the President in accord with specific instructions found in a prior, formal treaty; and (3) executive agreements executed pursuant to the President’s own constitutional authority (hereinafter referred to as “executive agreements”). Defendant contends that his agreement to return the coronation regalia to Hungary falls into the latter category, and the court agrees. * * *
The United States enters into approximately 200 executive agreements each year, and it has been observed that the constitutional system “could not last a month” if the President sought Senate or congressional consent for every one of them. L. Henkin, Foreign Affairs and the Constitution . . . Congress itself recognized this fact in passing P.L 92-403, 1 U.S.C. §112b, requiring the secretary of state to transmit for merely informational purposes the text of all international agreements other than treaties to which the United States becomes a party. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs stated in recommending passage of that statute that while it wished to be apprised of “all agreements of any significance,” “[c]learly the Congress does not want to be inundated with trivia.” 1972 U.S. Code Cong, and Admin. News, p. 3069. While the President’s understanding to return the Hungarian coronation regalia is hardly a “trivial” matter to either the United States or the people of Hungary, the court is yet convinced that the President’s agreement in this regard lacks the magnitude of agreements customarily concluded in treaty form. The President’s agreement here involves no substantial ongoing commitment on the part of the United States, exposes the United States to no appreciable discernible risks, and contemplates American action of an extremely limited duration in time. The plaintiff presented no evidence that agreements of the kind in question here are traditionally concluded only by treaty, either as a matter of American custom or as a matter of international law. Indeed, while the court has not exhaustively examined all possibly pertinent treaties, the court can hardly imagine that any such examination would lend support to the plaintiff’s position. Finally, the agreement here encompasses no substantial reciprocal commitments by the Hungarian government. As a matter of law, the court is therefore persuaded that the President’s agreement to return the Hungarian coronation regalia is not a commitment requiring the advice and consent of the Senate under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution.

Decision. The plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction was denied. The agreement to return the coronation regalia was found to be not a treaty requiring ratification by the Senate, but a valid executive agreement based on the president’s inherent power.

Case Questions

1. Why did the president use a sole executive agreement resolving this issue with Hungary instead of relying on the treaty power?

2. Was the president’s action required to be authorized by the Congress?

3. What kinds of agreements are usually reserved for treaties, and what kinds are handled through executive agreements?

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Get Expert Help at an Amazing Discount!"