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FDR and Chief Justice Hughes: The President, the Supreme Court, and the Epic Battle Over the New Deal Hardcover – February 7, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A spectacular book, brilliantly conceived and executed – an illuminating window into the question of the ages: Who has the power? The President, Congress or the Supreme Court?”

—Bob Woodward

“Franklin Roosevelt once called Charles Evans Hughes the finest politician in the United States. In this marvelously written, meticulously researched study, James F. Simon demonstrates why that was so. He also shows that except for their brief confrontation in 1937, in which Hughes prevailed, these two former governors of New York shared a deep affection for one another. Together they led the United States into the modern era.”

—Jean Edward Smith, author of FDR and John Marshall: Definer of a Nation

“The story of this relationship, as historically significant as any between a President and Chief Justice, is brilliantly unfurled by James Simon. Fresh, often moving, and hugely readable, it's a textbook case of statesmanship - and politics - at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue."

—Richard N. Smith, author of The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., on Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney:

“James F. Simon has written an exciting and notable book where Abraham Lincoln and Roger B. Taney, the president and the chief justice, two men of the highest intelligence and passionate judgment, argued the future of this democratic republic.”

Joseph J. Ellis, The New York Times Book Review on What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall:
“A study of the political and legal struggle between these icons of American history….A major contribution….A model of the narrative history written by someone who knows the law.”

About the Author

James F. Simon is the Martin Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School. He is the author of seven previous books on American history, law, and politics, including What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States, and lives with his wife in West Nyack, New York.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416573283
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416573289
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on February 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the latest of many books on the important court packing episode of 1937. However, it is much more than that. In its 436 pages (including notes), the author also effectively describes how the Presidency v. Supreme Court confrontation developed as the Court passed upon numerous significant New Deal measures. Most uniquely, the author has encased this discussion within a joint biography of FDR and Chief Justice Hughes. In fact, it is not until around page 233 that Roosevelt is situated as president and Hughes as Chief Justice. And then after the defeat of the court "reform" proposal, the author continues to follow out the lives of the two protagonists who were also (both having been former governors of New York) good friends.

Most other studies of court packing (and I have reviewed a number on Amazon) focus on Congressional developments and FDR's maneuvering. One of the great virtues of this book is that focuses extensively on Chief Justice Hughes as the key opponent of the plan, not Congress. It is generally recognized that a letter drafted by Hughes (with help from Justices Brandeis and Van Devanter) sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, powerfully refuting FDR's claim that the Court was behind in its work and needed more Justices, really was crucial in defeating the proposal. The author is correct to make this episode the centerpiece of the book, and to examine it in depth. Hence the juxtaposition of FDR v. Hughes. This approach has both strengths and limitations.

Its principal benefit is that it introduces this remarkable Chief Justice to newer generations who might never even have heard of him before. The last major biography of Hughes I recall appeared in 1952, shortly after his death in 1948.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Franklin Delano Roosevelt's court-packing scheme and the "switch in time that saved nine" have been immortalized in American history. They mark a turning point in the New Deal and American constitutional law. The account of law professor James Simon stands out in its focus on Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the extensive survey of the major cases leading up to the "switch in time," and its focus on the role of the Supreme Court in thwarting the court-packing scheme.

Simon starts with sketch biographies of Hughes and FDR and begins interweaving their stories as they both enter public life. He then turns his attention to the big battles between the Court and the president, with particular focus on each man.

Hughes served as governor of New York, Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, Secretary of State, judge on the International Court of Justice, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was also the Republican nominee for president in 1916. The son of a Welsh immigrant, Hughes went on to graduate in the top of his class from Columbia Law, briefly teach law at Cornell, and become one of NY's leading lawyers. He made his reputation largely on the strength of his performance as counsel for two state senate investigative committees. FDR's bio is likely familiar to most readers. What most struck me is how poorly FDR compared to Hughes. Hughes came from modest circumstances, excelled as a student, built a successful professional career with talent and hard work, and added integrity and a zeal for reform to make his political career. FDR was a member of one of NYC's leading old-money families, had a distant cousin in the Whitehouse, and rose through the New York political world primarily by affability and canny political skills.
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Format: Hardcover
James Simon, Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School, has written about constitutional confrontations between presidents and chief justices, including Jackson versus Marshall and Lincoln versus Taney. In his recent book,"FDR and Chief Justice Hughes" (2012), Simon explores the clash between President Franklin Roosevelt and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes over New Deal legislation. Under Hughes' leadership, the Court ruled unconstitutional several key components of the New Deal. Early in 1937, after his reelection, Roosevelt attempted to "pack" the Supreme Court by proposing to appoint an additional justice for each member of the Court over the age of 70, including Hughes. The chief justice played an important behind-the-scenes role in defeating this scheme. The Supreme Court then changed direction and began to defer to Congress on economic and social legislation. Simon argues that this judicial switch did not result from the pressure from Roosevelt. Simon's book is a dual biography that traces the early careers of and shows strong admiration for both his protagonists. Hughes had served as governor of New York and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court before resigning to run for president and to lose a close 1916 election to Woodrow Wilson. Hughes served as secretary of state before President Hoover appointed him chief justice. Roosevelt served as governor of New York, and as assistant secretary of the Navy under Wilson. After running unsuccessfully for vice president in 1920, Roosevelt's political career appeared over when he contracted polio in 1921. He fought back and won the presidency in 1932.Read more ›
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