PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
ROOSEVELT, Franklin D. Typed letter signed ("F.D.R."), as President, to Frederic A. Delano, Aboard Presidential Special, 4 October 1937. 1 page, 4to, White House stationery.
"THE JUDGES DO NOT HELP THE GOVERNMENT AND THE PEOPLE"
Three months after his bruising defeat in the Court Packing fiasco, FDR ruminates about the shortcomings of the American judiciary. "You are right about the Court and the Courts," he tells Frederic Delano. 'The chief difficulty about all of them is that unlike the English Courts, the Judges do not help the Government and the people when the case is a 'bad case' by pointing out how the case could be made a better case. Actual practice and procedure on the part of the lawyers and the bench must be greatly improved before we can seriously discuss Career Judges. Under present circumstances, I doubt if they would initiate great improvements."
Angered by the Supreme Court striking down key provisions of his New Deal program, Roosevelt introduced a radical piece of legislation in February 1937, the key provision of which would have allowed FDR to add a new Justice to the Court for every current member aged 70½ who refused to retire. In 1937, that would have given FDR five new seats on the Court. The bill provoked bitter opposition from not just lawyers and judges, but from many Democrats in Congress, who saw it as an Executive encroachment on the independence of the Judiciary. The defeat of the bill in July was an embarrassment for the Persident. But, ironically, he got his way with the Court over the next five years as death and retirement created five vacancies. In all Roosevelt's long tenure in office would see him name eight justices, and leave a liberal imprint on the Court that would last until the Reagan administration.