This Is How FDR Tried to Pack the Supreme CourtBreaking News
tags: FDR, Supreme Court, SCOTUS, Trump
With lifetime appointments, it’s not unusual for Supreme Court justices to serve well past the average U.S. retirement age of 63. (Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, announced his retirement this week; Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 85; Stephen Breyer turns 80 in August; Antonin Scalia died while still on the court in 2016 at age 79).
But in the late 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to put restrictions on the court when it came to age. Largely seen as a political ploy to change the court for favorable rulings on New Deal legislation, the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, commonly referred to as the “court-packing plan,” was Roosevelt’s attempt to appoint up to six additional justices to the Supreme Court for every justice older than 70 years, 6 months, who had served 10 years or more.
Dr. David B. Woolner, senior fellow and resident historian of the Roosevelt Institute and author of The Last 100 Days: FDR at War and at Peace, says it’s important to note the timing of this bill, which took place during the Great Depression. “We were in the midst of the worst economic crisis in our history,” he says. “Roosevelt’s response to this economic crisis was to engage in a series of programs designed to manage a capitalist system in such a way as to make it work for the average American. And because he wasn’t particularly ideological, he was willing to try all kinds of things.”
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