Roosevelt's Court-Packing Fiasco


The Supreme Court. The title alone lends an air of distinction to that august legal body and its nine justices who sit in judgment on an entire nation. And indeed, the United States' highest tribunal, more than any other root of America's democratic tree, is revered among the people.


Factions may take issue with a particular decision (the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion, for instance) or heatedly debate the qualifications of a particular justice (as they did with Clarence Thomas in 1991). But rarely do they agitate against the court as an institution. The Founding Fathers intentionally tried to insulate the court from the passions of politics, and they largely succeeded.


The Supreme Court at times has become a political lightning rod, yet the few attempts to attack it as an institution typically end in embarrassing failure. The politically foolish mission of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to "pack" the court with justices favorable to his social policies is a perfect case study. His plan, virtually dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, faltered 62 years ago this month.



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