Magazine September 20, 2010, Issue

Comes a Horseman

The Four Horsemen: Sutherland, Van Devanter, McReynolds, and Butler (Supreme Court of the United States)
The early New Deal Court was right about FDR’s overreach

Franklin Roosevelt’s clash with the Supreme Court is one of history’s greatest legal dramas, but it has generated an unfair and misleading mythology. In this legend, the Court greeted the New Deal with a blast of reactionary decisions in 1935 and 1936 — invalidating, among other things, the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) and the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) — to which Roosevelt retaliated by threatening to pack the Court with a new, more loyal majority of justices. The judiciary avoided the embarrassment of an expanded, politically neutered Court when Justice Owen Roberts switched sides in 1937, leading to a

Timothy Sandefur is the Goldwater Institute’s vice president for litigation. He authored a friend-of-the-court brief in Brackeen v. Bernhardt.

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