LOSING BATTLES AND WINNING WARS: FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT AND THE FIGHT TO TRANSFORM THE SUPREME COURT, 1937 - 1941

  • Harvey G. Hudspeth

Abstract

This paper examines the dramatic rise of the Roosevelt Court between the years 1937 and 1941. Having gone through his first term of office without a single Supreme Court appointment, Franklin Roosevelt was to be given the opportunity during his second term to make no less than five nominations with an additional four coming in his third term. Initially, however, he was to face great controversy; first with his notorious “Court Packing” scheme of 1937, followed quickly by revelations that his first Court appointee, Hugo Black, had once been affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan. Weathering these early defeats, however, Franklin Roosevelt ultimately won his war against the “Nine Old Men” to turn the Court towards economic liberalism. This paper traces the course of Roosevelt’s struggle, his early losses, and his ultimate victory.