Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 5: FDR's Announces Court Packing Plan

On this date in History .... 1937:

Franklin Roosevelt announced plans to expand the Supreme Court to up to 15 judges, his argument being to make it “more efficient.”  FDR had become irritated with the Court as they had struck down several of his New Deal bills. FDR plan was to pack the Supreme Court with more liberal judges who would vote with his New Deal ideas.  Before he could put the plan in place, two of the judges switched over to “the liberal side”, making FDR’s reorganization plan unnecessary.  FDR had his first chance to appoint a new justice soon after and by 1942, all but two of the judges were FDR appointees anyway.

Businessmen who found themselves heavily taxed and regulated by FDR’s new programs, pushed back through the courts.  In one of them, the Supreme Court ruled against FDR’s Agricultural Adjustment Act, stating in a 6-3 split that the tax was unconstitutional and that only the states had the power to regulate agriculture.

FDR didn’t want the states to try to piecemeal changes. He believed that only “sweeping federal reforms” could fix the problems of the Depression.  He claimed the court was overwhelmed with cases as his reasoning for adding more judges …. judges that HE would appoint to make sure his programs were passed without problem.

It is historical irony that FDR almost achieved his plan when five justices retired and two died, giving FDR the opportunity to appoint seven of the nine seated justices anyway


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