Supreme Court and the political agenda

Chapter 7 of the Epstein and Walker text book contains a detailed discussion of the conflict in the 1930s between the Supreme Court and the political agenda being advanced by President Roosevelt’s New Deal program,  much of which was rooted in Congress’ power in Article I, Section 8 to regulate interstate commerce.  To deal with this conflict Roosevelt in 1937 introduced the Judicial Reform Act, often referred to as FDR’s “court-packing  plan”, that would, if passed, allowed him to make 6 new appointments to the Supreme Court, increasing it from 9 to 15 justices.  Eventually what’s famously called the “switch in time that saved nine”, the Court’s  1937 decision in West Coast Hotel v. Parish, a case not dealing with the national  commerce power as such but whether a state regulation conflicted with the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause (covered in the next section of the course)  brought this conflict to an end.


Use this forum to discuss  this conflict between  Roosevelt’s court-packing plan and the Supreme Court.  Specifically,  what do these these events tell us about both the politics of the Supreme Court and the court’s role in the American political  and constitutional system.  Was Roosevelt correct in trying to shape the policies made by the Supreme Court or should he have refrained from taking such action?  Should a  current or future president attempt to increase the number of justices on the court for political advantage, or even reduce the size of the court to curtail the power of a future administration?

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