Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A Supreme Court Story

There are dozens of bits of history sprinkled over the 1929 to 1942 period of American history, which rarely get any mention today.  So this is a short essay piece over this unique episode that occurred with FDR and his 'pack-the-court' strategy.

Shortly after his 2nd win, going into early 1937....FDR was a bit peeved over the challenges to his solutions via the court system.  The Supreme Court was actually hindering and preventing various things from occurring.  One could suggest that the court was heavily slanted by that point by GOP-appointed Justices of the 1920s, which would be true.

So what FDR decided to do....was to produce the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937.  He intended to pack the court himself.  How? 

Well....he'd just add more justices.

The draft bill would grant the President the power to appoint one additional Justice (for a max of six), for each member of the court over the age of 70.5 years old.  As far as I one has ever explained where the 70.5 number came from, and I suspect that he just looked over the court and figured this was the appropriate number.

So instead of nine could have had a total of 15 (if this all played out).

The odd thing least told by some that not only was the GOP against the bill, but various Democrats found the bill to destructive.  My guess is that some sat there and asked if this was logical....why couldn't some GOP President come up in ten years and mandate another six extra Justices, and put 21 potentially on the court.

What happened? of the Justices reviewed the mess and privately on his own....just started leaning to support any measure that FDR had come up.  This support, along with the effort by Senate Judiciary Committee by Democratic committee chair Henry F. Ashurst to stall the draft law....basically ended the threat to the Supreme Court.

A lot of this was not exactly front-page news, and probably understood by the bulk of American society.  In the decades after the event, historians got around to telling the story, and suggesting how close the Court to being heavily manipulated by FDR.

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