The constitutional crisis of 1937




Saylor, Joseph Rice, 1911-

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This study evolves around an attempt of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to induce the Congress to pass a bill to reorganize the national judiciary and the reaction of various groups toward this proposal. While the original bill to reform the national judiciary touched on several phases of judicial reorganization, this study is devoted entirely to that phase of the measure which provided for an increase in the membership of the Supreme Court. In order for one to have a clearer understanding of the issues involved in this study, it is necessary to discuss briefly the nature of the American constitutional system of government. This is found in the introductory chapter. This chapter also contains a brief survey of the court controversy. The next chapter deals primarily with the attempt of the framers of the Constitution to establish an independent national judiciary and the reasons why they believed an independent judiciary was necessary to the maintenance of our system of government. For fear there might he those who think that President Roosevelt's attempt to reform the court in 1957 was without precedent, there are two chapters dealing with the attempts of other presidents of the United States both to control the Court and, over a period of many years, to reform it. Additional proposals for judicial reform presented by members of the congress and others are also discussed. A couple of chapters are devoted to the reasons, superficial and real, why the President and certain administration leaders believed "packing" the Court to be necessary. The primary purpose of the dissertation, however, is to reveal the reaction of various groups throughout the United States toward the President's plan for court reform and determine how these groups were divided on this important issue. Chapters are devoted to the attitude of (1) lawyers, (2) educators, (3) the church and church leaders, (4) labor, agriculture, and industry, (5) press, and (6) the public in general on the court proposal. A chapter is devoted to a survey of the history of the court bill in Congress and the attitude of various members of the Congress toward the proposal. The conclusions of the author are presented in the last chapter