Court Packing Plan

Franklin D Roosevelt

Definition and Summary of the Court Packing Plan
Summary and Definition: The "Court Packing Plan" was the nickname given by journalists to the unsuccessful Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 that was proposed by FDR to increase the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices from nine to fifteen. The Supreme Court had declared the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) and the Agricultural Adjustment Act unconstitutional, and the Wagner Act and the Social Security Act were pending decisions. FDR believed that that the conservative court was partisan and would strike down nearly all the major New Deal Programs that had been introduced to combat the Great Depression.

The purpose of court-packing plan was allegedly to increase the Courtís efficiency but FDR wanted to use the plan to appoint justices who would not block his administrationís New Deal programs. FDR's actions forced the Supreme Court to back down but the controversial plan ultimately failed through lack of support cost FDR significant political capital in the process.

   
  

FDR and the Court Packing Plan - Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937
Franklin D Roosevelt was the 32nd American President who served in office from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945. One of the important events during his second term of presidency was the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 known as the "court-packing plan".

Court Packing Plan Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Court Packing Plan for kids.

Facts about the Court Packing Plan for kids

Court Packing Plan Fact 1: The innovative New Deal programs aimed at Relief, Recovery and Reform were extremely popular with the majority of Americans who were gripped in the Great Depression.

Court Packing Plan Fact 2: FDR was furious that the Supreme Court had ruled the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) that had been passed in 1933 were unconstitutional and that decisions regarding the validity of the later Social Security Act of 1935 and the Wagner Act were also pending judgment by the Supreme Court.

Court Packing Plan Fact 3: In the Judiciary Act of 1869 Congress had established that the US Supreme Court would consist of the Chief Justice and eight associate judges. FDR referred to the justices as "nine old men". At this time it was the most elderly court in the nationís history, with four judges over 70 years old and two judges in their late 60's. The total ages of justices averaging 71 years .

Court Packing Plan Fact 4: FDR had known that four of the justices, James McReynolds, George Sutherland, Pierce Butler, and Willis Van Devanter, referred to as "the Four Horsemen", would vote to invalidate almost all of the New Deal. In the spring of 1935, a fifth justice, Hoover-appointee Owen Roberts, began casting his swing vote with ďthe Four HorsemenĒ to create a conservative majority. Occasionally Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes was also in agreement with the majority, conservative justices

Court Packing Plan Fact 5: It seemed likely that the conservative justices of the Supreme Court would strike down nearly all the major New Deal programs. FDR worked with Attorney General Homer Cummings, on a plan to ensure a more favorable response to the New Deal from the Supreme Court.

Court Packing Plan Fact 6: FDR knew that he was moving into dangerous waters as the majority of Americans believed the Supreme Court sacrosanct. The president never mentioned the Supreme Court during his campaign for reelection.

Court Packing Plan Fact 7: President Roosevelt was re-elected in a landslide victory and decided to 'flex his muscles' to curb and change the political balance on the Supreme Court.

Court Packing Plan Fact 8: President Roosevelt proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, or the 'court-packing plan  to Congress on February 5, 1937. The central provision of the bill would have granted the President power to appoint an additional Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, up to a maximum of six, for every member of the court over the age of 70 years and 6 months. If the bill was passed it would therefore allow FDR to quickly appoint as many as 6 new judges.

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Facts about the Court Packing Plan for kids

Facts about the Court Packing Plan for kids - Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937
The following fact sheet continues with facts about Court Packing Plan for kids.

Facts about Court Packing Plan for kids

Court Packing Plan Fact 9: FDR did not want to be seen to attack the court so he took the approach of capitalizing on the publicís concern about the ages of the justices and claiming that they were over burdened with work.  .

capitalize on the publicís concern about the ages of the justices


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Court Packing Plan Fact 10: The bill was the subject of one of President Roosevelt's Fireside chats on March 9, 1937.

Court Packing Plan Fact 11: The plan backfired and was FDR's first serious political mistake. 

Court Packing Plan Fact 12: The scheme gave the impression that the president was undermining the court's independence and interfering with the Constitution's Separation of Powers. Americans were concerned that the scheme would give the President too much power

Court Packing Plan Fact 13: When the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill went to Congress the scheme lost support and split the Democratic Party. Southern Democrats expressed concerns that new justices appointed by future presidents might overturn segregation and oppose civil rights.

Court Packing Plan Fact 14: The Supreme Court reacted to criticisms by maintaining that the reason they struck down so many of the New Deal programs was not because the court was partisan, but because the Roosevelt Justice Department was badly unorganized and did not argue the cases well.

Court Packing Plan Fact 15: The furor surrounding the scheme appeared to make the Supreme Court back down possibly due to concerns that further conflict might lead to a constitutional crisis and the likely weakening of the judicial branch of government. The Wagner Act was upheld in April 1937 and the Social Security Act was declared constitutional in the following month.

Court Packing Plan Fact 16: Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 was dropped and never subject to a Senate Vote. The scheme damage the president's reputation and encouraged Conservative Democrats in Congress to work with Republicans to  oppose proposals for New Deal programs

Facts about Court Packing Plan for kids

Court Packing Plan for kids - President Franklin Roosevelt Video
The article on the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 or the Court Packing Plan provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following Franklin Roosevelt video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 32nd American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945.

Court Packing Plan - 1937 Judicial Procedures Reform Bill

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