“In 1937, therefore, the Roosevelt administration introduced a bill giving the president the power to increase the number of Justices to a maximum of 15. Reflecting criticism of the “Nine Old Men” blocking the progressive agenda, the Reform Bill of 1937 authorized the President to nominate one new Justice for each sitting judge with at least ten years’ service on the Court who had not retired after reaching the age of 70 1/2. The maximum number of new Justices that could be nominated was six. The same legislation also gave Roosevelt the power to nominate additional jurists to lower federal courts, up to a limit of 50. Famously, however, the legislation, which opponents called the “court-packing bill,” was bottled up in a Senate committee and failed to pass.
There were two reasons for this. First, conservative Democrats joined Republicans to oppose Roosevelt’s “tinkering” with a sacrosanct institution. Second, and probably more important, the Justices began to approve New Deal measures that they had previously been inclined to invalidate. Even before introduction of the Reform Bill, Justice Owen Roberts, the key swing vote, began to join the liberals in deciding important cases, a change of heart that some wags called “the switch in time that saved Nine.” Roosevelt thus lost the battle but won the war.” (interesting the swing vote judge was named Roberts)
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