Packing the Court

Today in History, February 5: 1937 – “The Judicial Procedures Reform Bill”. President Franklin Roosevelt had experienced much success in advancing his reformist economic agenda, trying to bring the country out of the Great Depression. However some of his New Deal actions had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. This was unacceptable to the Democrat FDR. So….if the laws aren’t working for you…change the laws. Every President tries to “pack the court” with justices sympathetic to their party’s views…but FDR took it to a new and radical level. He had a bill introduced in Congress that would give him the power to add as many as SIX new justices for every current justice that was over 70 years and six months old. This would take the Supreme Court from 9 to 15 justices, most of them appointed by FDR. Before the legislation came to a vote, one of the justices turned to Roosevelt’s side, and his agenda began to be voted constitutional. In the end, the power-grabbing bill was rejected by the Senate. But with 3 full and one partial term as President, FDR would have plenty of time to “pack the court”.

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