The Supreme Court

Hughes Court, 1930 to 1941

President Herbert Hoover selected Charles Even Hughes as the next chief justice. He had a reputation for running the court in a military-like matter. He led the case-decision conferences by spelling out what he considered to be the key issues of the case and did not allow discussion to deviate from those points.

Hughes took over the court when the country was in a state of economic crisis following the stock market crash of 1929. The conservative activists on the Court had just prevailed with Adkins and were ready to take on any laws they found offensive. The court ruled unconstitutional all of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal legislation up to 1937.

Court Connotations

The New Deal was a series of legislative initiatives proposed by Roosevelt to get people back to work by establishing various federal work projects. Roosevelt also formed the Federal Emergency Relief Administration to provide federal monetary assistance to the most desperate people. Social Security also became law during this period of time.

Roosevelt then went on the offensive and tried to pack the Court by proposing legislation on February 5, 1937 that would allow him to appoint a justice for every justice over 70 who did not retire. If this had passed Roosevelt would have been able to appoint six new Supreme Court justices. The president lost the battle, but his warning to the Court changed the Court's attitude. Before the Court-packing plan was considered in Congress, the Hughes Court ruled in 12 separate cases overturning every piece of New Deal legislation. By the time the fight was over in Congress, even though Roosevelt did not get his bill, the Hughes Court upheld every piece of New Deal legislation.

Prior to the successful enactment of New Deal legislation, the government's primary role was national defense. The government also supported the status quo including some limitations to be sure there was some semblance of fair play. Essentially the principle of laissez faire prevailed. That principle did not stand the test of time to solve the pressing economic problems and bring the country out of the Great Depression.

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Supreme Court © 2004 by Lita Epstein, J.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

3 Fun Thanksgiving Games for Kids
Looking for some great Thanksgiving games to play with your kids? Print our free Pin the Feathers on the Turkey game, Pin the Hat on the Pilgrim game, and Thanksgiving Parade Bingo game for loads of laughs this Turkey Day!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top Family Movies in Theaters for the Holidays
Taking the kids to the movies is a special family treat for the holidays! Don't miss 2014's best family films in theaters from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!