Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748, 26 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 748 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

544, 556-557 (1975). See also United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U. S. 304, 319-322 (1936). Cf. Swaim v. United States, 165 U. S. 553, 557-558 (1897) (President has inherent authority to convene courts-martial). Like the Court of Military Appeals, Curtis, 32 M. J., at 263, n. 9, we need not decide whether the President would have inherent power as Commander in Chief to prescribe aggravating factors in capital cases. Once delegated that power by Congress, the President, acting in his constitutional office of Commander in Chief, had undoubted competency to prescribe those factors without further guidance. "The military constitutes a specialized community governed by a separate discipline from that of the civilian," Orloff v. Willoughby, 345 U. S. 83, 94 (1953), and the President can be entrusted to determine what limitations and conditions on punishments are best suited to preserve that special discipline.

It is hard to deem lawless a delegation giving the President broad discretion to prescribe rules on this subject. From the early days of the Republic, the President has had congressional authorization to intervene in cases where courts-martial decreed death. American Articles of War of 1806, Art. 65, reprinted in Winthrop 976, 982. It would be contradictory to say that Congress cannot further empower him to limit by prospective regulation the circumstances in which courts-martial can impose a death sentence. Specific authority to make rules for the limitation of capital punishment contributes more toward principled and uniform military sentencing regimes than does case-by-case intervention, and it provides greater opportunity for congressional oversight and revision.

Separation-of-powers principles are vindicated, not dis-served, by measured cooperation between the two political branches of the Government, each contributing to a lawful objective through its own processes. The delegation to the President as Commander in Chief of the authority to pre-


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