In response to the Supreme Court’s decision Citizens United v. FEC, the House and Senate introduced legislation this week called the DISCLOSE Act (“The Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act”). Alliance for Justice is hosting a telephone briefing on Monday May 3rd at 4pm Eastern to walk through what the House and Senate bills say and what the provisions mean for nonprofits. Speakers include Mike Trister and Holly Schadler, Lichtman, Trister & Ross, PLLC, as well as representatives from the nonprofit sector.
The American Constitution Society has launched a Constitutional video contest that invites you to submit an original short film that highlights “the importance of the federal judiciary, the need for independent judges, and the necessity of ensuring a fair and efficient judicial nomination process.”
The contest winner will be awarded $1,500 and free registration to the 2010 ACS National Convention in Washington, D.C. on June 17 – 19, and the runner-up will receive a $250 prize. To learn more about the contest including the rules of entry visit http://acslaw.org/videocontest.
With Washington abuzz with talk about who might be President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, Alliance for Justice has developed brief background reports on the most likely nominees. They are available on our new Supreme Court Watch web page along with a major report that sheds light on the current pro-big-business tilt of the Roberts Court and a retrospective on the career of Justice Stevens.As this story develops in the coming weeks, additional materials will be posted. Be sure to check back frequently as we monitor this appointment, which is critical to the future of the Supreme Court, the judiciary as a whole, and the lives of ordinary Americans.If you want to be sure to receive action alerts, breaking news, the inside scoop on the federal judiciary, and the confirmation process for Federal Judges sign up for our Justice Action Network.
Over breakfast this morning,
Alliancefor Justice hosted a discussion between author Jeff Shesol and retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Wald about the relationship between the President of the and the Supreme Court. United States
Many of us have heard the phrase “the switch in time that saved nine,” but know little about the true story behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s court packing plan. In his new book, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court, Shesol chronicles the power struggle between President Roosevelt and the Supreme Court following the passage of the New Deal — and the Court declaring parts of it unconstitutional.
After watching many of his reforms encounter stiff opposition from the “Four Horsemen” who made up the politically-savvy and conservative wing of the Supreme Court, Roosevelt decided to take action. Since the justices had lifetime appointments and could not be easily removed,
Rooseveltdecided that the answer was the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937. The Constitution does not specify how many justices sit on the Supreme Court, so the bill sought to add an additional justice to the Supreme Court for every sitting justice over the age of 70. This would have resulted in Roosevelt adding six new judges to the Court — raising the number of members of the Court from 9 to 15 — and ensuring sufficient support for Roosevelt’s massive social reform legislation.
When the plan was conceived in 1937,
Roosevelthad recently won reelection by a landslide and the Court was deeply unpopular. Rooseveltpublicly justified the addition of six justices by explaining that elderly judges throughout the country were unable to keep up with the workload, and court dockets were suffering as a result.
Roosevelt, the facts did not support his unsubstantiated claim of judicial overload. Mainstream newspapers were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the idea and the plan was hailed as a great idea by the Nazi press in . The American public sent thousands of displeased telegrams to Congress. Ultimately, support for Germany Roosevelt’ position eroded. While many shared Roosevelt’s displeasure with the Court’s conservatism, tampering with the institution seemed even to many liberals to represent excessive presidential power and a threat to the Constitution.
Roosevelt’s refusal to compromise his plan of adding six justices (Shesol notes that he may have been able to successfully add two, or even four seats to the Court), was a severe political miscalculation for the president. Luckily for
Roosevelt, beginning in mid-1937, a number of conservative justices retired, providing the president with the opportunity to appoint several new justices who transformed the ideological balance of the Court.
Our thanks to Jeff Shesol and Judge Wald for a fascinating morning. Photos of the event can be found by clicking here. To learn more about the true story behind the court packing plan, you can watch Shesol speak about his book with Jeffrey Toobin on c-span.