The coming storm over the US Supreme Court

In 1937, United States President Franklin Roosevelt went after the Supreme Court. He was infuriated that a conservative majority of justices kept striking down New Deal measures he felt were essential to pull the country out of the Great Depression. So, fresh from his overwhelming second-term electoral victory, Roosevelt proposed adding as many as six additional justices to the nation's highest bench.

Filling those new vacancies would give him a clear majority on the court, presumably ensuring his future legislative proposals would be upheld. Roosevelt's "court-packing" plan cast the country into six months of furious debate over the propriety of such a move. In the end, the plan evaporated, but not before the court capitulated. Roosevelt's proposal set off a genuine constitutional crisis, with little else on the national agenda getting any attention.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2018, with the headline 'The coming storm over the US Supreme Court'. Subscribe