Fdr's Gambit: The Court Packing Fight and the Rise of Legal Liberalism (MP3 CD)
In the past few years, liberals concerned about the prospect of long-term conservative dominance of the federal courts have revived an idea that crashed and burned in the 1930s: court packing. Today's court packing advocates have run into a wall of opposition, with most citing the 1930s episode as one FDR's greatest failures. In early 1937, Roosevelt-fresh off a landslide victory-stunned the country when he proposed a plan to expand the size of the court by up to six justices. Today, that scheme is generally seen as an instance where FDR failed to read Congress and the public properly. In FDR's Gambit, legal historian Laura Kalman challenges the conventional wisdom by telling the story as it unfolded. While scholars have portrayed the Court Bill as the ill-fated brainchild of a President made overbold by victory, Kalman argues that acumen, not arrogance, accounted for Roosevelt's actions. FDR came close to getting additional justices, and the Court itself changed course. As Kalman shows, the episode suggests that proposing a change in the Court might give the justices reason to consider whether their present course is endangering the institution and its vital role in a liberal democracy. FDR's Gambit offers a novel perspective on the long-term effects of court packing.