Hill Center at the Old Naval HospitalWashington, DC, United States

Profs & Pints DC: FDR’s Supreme Court—A Tale for Our Times

By Profs and Pints (other events)

Wednesday, June 12 2024 6:00 PM 8:30 PM EDT

Profs and Pints DC presents: “FDR’s Supreme Court—A Tale for Our Times,” with Cliff Sloan, professor of Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice at Georgetown University Law Center, former law clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens, and Supreme Court analyst for national media.

At a time when Donald Trump has installed—and might be poised to expand—an overwhelming conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s instructive to look back at a how a previous president changed the course of nation’s most powerful legal institution.

Learn the inside story of how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt forever altered the Supreme Court with Cliff Sloan, author of The Court at War: FDR, His Justices, and the World They Made. He'll leave you with a thorough understanding of how the legacy of FDR’s War Court offers important insights in a time of convulsive change at the highest court in the land.

By the summer of 1941, in the ninth year of his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt had appointed seven of the nine Justices—the most by any President except George Washington—and handpicked the Chief Justice. The Roosevelt Court during World War II had two faces: One was bold and progressive, the other supine and abject, cowed by the charisma of the revered President.

The Justices’ shameless capitulation and unwillingness to cross their beloved President highlight the dangers of an unseemly closeness between Supreme Court Justices and their political patrons. But the FDR Court’s finest moments provided a robust defense of individual rights that is very relevant to current controversies. Both have profound consequences for the Supreme Court today.

In exploring this pivotal period, Professor Cliff Sloan will discuss the cast of characters that made up the FDR court’s Justices—from the mercurial, Vienna-born intellectual Felix Frankfurter to the Alabama populist Hugo Black, and from the western prodigy William O. Douglas to Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson.

The personal experiences that Professor Sloan will draw upon include arguing before the Supreme Court seven times as a lawyer, working in all three branches of the federal government (including in the White House and the Justice Department), and providing commentary on the Supreme Court for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other publications as well as television and radio networks. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)

Image: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt discusses his plans for the Supreme Court during a 1937 “fireside chat” broadcast. Photo by Harris and Ewing / Library of Congress .