This is the last installment in a series on the nadir, or low point, of the U.S. Supreme Court. This was the period from 1937 to 1944, when the court stopped protecting the Constitution’s limits on the federal government. Our Constitution has never fully recovered.
The first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth installments related to how the justices initially tried to balance the demands of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal with the Constitution’s rules. In 1937, however, Roosevelt began to replace sitting justices with New Deal enthusiasts who had no prior judicial credentials. The remodeled bench successively discarded limits on federal spending, federal property ownership, and federal economic regulation. In at least one case, it abandoned habeas corpus and the right to a trial by jury.
This final installment addresses the court’s role in what was, aside from slavery, the most egregious violation of civil rights in U.S. history. It adds some observations on how the court’s abysmal record from 1937 to 1944 continues to affect us today.