FDR and the Court-Packing Plan 1937

FDR and the Court-Packing Plan 1937
The official portrait of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1947. | FDR and the Court-Packing Plan 1937

FDR and the Court-Packing Plan 1937

President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces a plan to enlarge the Supreme Court to as many as 15 judges on February 5, 1937, ostensibly to make it more efficient. Critics quickly accused Roosevelt of attempting to “stuff” the Supreme Court in order to neutralize anti-New Deal justices.

Several significant sections of New Deal legislation had been struck down by the supreme court in the preceding two years on the grounds that they ceded an unconstitutional amount of power to the executive branch and the federal government. With his overwhelming reelection in 1936, President Roosevelt proposed in February 1937 to grant full salary retirement for all members of the Supreme Court over the age of 70.

If a justice refused to resign, Roosevelt planned to appoint a “assistant” with full voting privileges, ensuring Roosevelt a liberal majority. The so-called “court-packing” scheme was opposed by the majority of Republicans and many Democrats in Congress.

However, two Supreme Court justices switched sides in April, before the bill was put to a vote in Congress, and upheld the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act as constitutional by a thin majority. The majority ruling recognized that the national economy had grown to the point where federal regulation and supervision were now necessary. Roosevelt’s reorganization plan was thus superfluous, and the Senate rejected it by a vote of 70 to 22 in July. Roosevelt got the opportunity to select his first Supreme Court justice soon after, and by 1942, he had appointed all but two of the justices.

SEE ALSO:

Recognition of Labor Unions (1842);

The National Labor Relations Act (1935);

The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938).

SOURCES:

FDR and the Court-Packing Plan 1937

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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