Sunday, July 24, 2005

Packing the Court : A Recipe for Disaster

My dad was a "Roosevelt man" through and through; but, in 1937 ,Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to make an end run around the checks and balances of the Constitution by "packing" three additional judges-all sympathetic to his goals-into an all-new ,Roosevelt-friendly, 12 judge Supreme Court.

In doing so, he lost the respect of the people like my dad, and came close to being swept out of office by an angry electorate.

The people understood very clearly, FDR already had control of the House and the Senate. If he could secure control of the Court,he would have been in a position to become absolute dictator – accountable to no one ; and the people wanted no part of that !

One would think the lessons of 1937 would be well learned, but it is clear our political parties have forgotten it.

Both parties have worked overtime on a modern-day version of Court Packing: the application of political "litmus tests".

Each party seeks to emplace judges who will hand them the keys to the candy store – somewhere down the road.

Confronted with this charge, they barely blush as they deny it…if they deny it at all.


We need judges who know the law, who respect and abide by the Constitution, and who can be counted on,by virtue of good, ethical character, to apply the law fairly – regardless of who is before the Court.

If we continue these ridiculous attempts to pack the court,we may someday succeed- not beyond our wildest dreams, but beyond our worst nightmares.

Notes: My dad continued to support President Roosevelt,but was much less enthusiastic about him: sometimes voting for him as "the lesser of two evils".

Revisionist scholars have often claimed FDR’s court packing attempt was brought about by his anger at an "obstructionist court" – but the truth is,his Administration began planning a "court re-organization" coup in 1933-some four years earlier.

Marian C. McKenna, Professor Emeritus at Alberta University,has written a stunning book: "Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War : The Court Packing Crisis of 1937".

Book review link here:

Definitely worth a visit to your local library or bookstore !


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