National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1931-1946: We meet crisis in the Depression, and again in World War II

July 23, 1937
A victorious FDR tries to reorganize the Court; the country says “No”

Roosevelt in Congress

This plan will save our national Constitution from hardening of the judicial arteries.”
–Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt has made no secret of his displeasure with Supreme Court rulings against the New Deal.

But FDR surprised us all when, just weeks after being reelected by the largest popular vote in our history, he unveiled a plan to change the Court. He proposed adding one new Justice for every Justice over the age of 70. That would mean six new Justices nominated by FDR.

It was Roosevelt’s turn to be surprised when conservatives and liberals rebelled against his plan to pack the Court. People accused him of meddling with the Constitution’s separation of powers

Then, unexpectedly, the Court shifted ground, ruling in favor of a New Deal program. FDR’s reason to pack the court vanished.

Today, a scathing Senate report rejected the plan, saying nothing like it should ever again “be presented to the free representatives of the free people of America.”

Read about it in the New York times

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