The Lost History of FDR's Court Packing ScandalBreaking News
tags: FDR, Supreme Court, political history, presidential history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Americans spent much of 2018 with their eyes trained on the Supreme Court—from its rulings on presidential travel bans and public employee unions to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle, the most heated confirmation battle in modern memory. So it should be no surprise that many are talking about ways to reform the court.
Some Democrats even want to revive the most famous, or infamous, attempt at Supreme Court reform in history: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s proposal to pack the court with extra justices in 1937. In Philadelphia this week, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., said that court packing was “no more a departure from norms than what the Republicans did to get the judiciary to the place it is today.”
FDR’s court-packing battle is one of the best-known constitutional struggles in U.S. history. The story, as it’s often been told, pits an entrenched, reactionary Supreme Court, which overturned a slew of Roosevelt’s New Deal economic reforms, against a hubristic president willing to take the unprecedented step of asking Congress to appoint six new, and sympathetic, justices to the bench. Only a national outcry against this unconstitutional skulduggery, along with a newly cowed court that began upholding Roosevelt’s laws, stopped the plan.
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