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The Court at War FDR, His Justices, and the World They Made


The Court at War FDR, His Justices, and the World They Made

  • ISBN 13:


  • ISBN 10:


  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 09/19/2023
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs

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The inside story of how one president forever altered the most powerful legal institution in the country, with consequences that endure today.  

By the summer of 1941, eight years into his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt had solidified his court. FDR had finally appointed seven of the nine justices—the most by any President except George Washington—and he had elevated an eighth to be the Chief Justice.
Only lasting the duration of WWII, the Roosevelt Court was actually a tale of two Courts. One Court was bold and progressive, with early decisions on civil rights and civil liberties striking down whites-only primaries and protecting reproductive rights. The other Court supinely and abjectly bowed to the revered President, blessing his mass internment of Japanese-Americans and his rushed trial and execution of accused Nazi saboteurs.
Cliff Sloan’s The Court at War explores this fascinating story. It features a cast of unforgettable historical characters in the justices—from the mercurial, Vienna-born intellectual Felix Frankfurter to the Alabama populist Hugo Black; from the western prodigy William O. Douglas, FDR’s initial choice pick to be his running mate in 1944, to Roosevelt’s former Attorney General Robert Jackson. It also includes lesser-known justices like Frank Murphy, a controversial social-justice champion who wrote a powerful dissent in the Court’s Koremsatsu decision. 
The Justices’ shameless capitulation and unwillingness to cross their beloved President highlights the dangers of an unseemly closeness between Supreme Court Justices and their political patrons. Coming on the heels of the recent slew of appointments and confirmations, Sloan’s deep dive into FDR’s court is a vivid, cautionary tale. And its finest moments stand as a refutation of the current Court's dismantling of individual rights.

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