Supreme Court Decisions, 1938–39

June 5, 1939

Report Outline
The New Supreme Court and the New Deal
Rights and Duties Under the Labor Relations Act
New Deal Victories in T. V. A., a. A. A. And Gold Clause Cases
Cases on Scope of Powers of the States
Child Labor Amendment and Civil Rights Cases

The New Supreme Court and the New Deal

The Supreme Court of the United States continued during its 1938–39 term to re-examine the “established” principles of constitutional law. When the term came to a close on June 5, the Court left behind it a record which displayed a refusal to be bound by doctrines evolved to deal with the problems of an earlier period; a disposition to adapt the law to the social, political, and economic conditions of today and to the philosophy of government represented by the New Deal.

The current trend of judicial thought first became evident in decisions rendered by the Court during its 1936–37 term. Taking an advanced view of the scope of permissible regulation of business, the justices at that term expressly overruled an earlier decision which denounced minimum wage legislation as an unconstitutional impairment of freedom of contract. At the same term, the Court sanctioned an unprecedented expansion of federal power by upholding the National Labor Relations Act in opinions which the public found difficult to reconcile with prior decisions in the N. R. A., A. A. A., and Guffey Coal Act cases.

Doubt as to whether the Court's “new liberalism” represented a permanent change——or was a policy of expediency to thwart the President's Court reorganization plan——was removed at the 1937–38 term when the justices sustained the administration in every major New Deal case. At that term, the Court expressly repudiated at least one doctrine which had been considered firmly embedded in the law of the land, namely, that federal courts could exercise their independent judgment in deciding questions of general law, without regard to the law of the state in which the right of action arose. Also, it modified in substantial aspects the doctrine of inter-governmental tax immunity as that doctrine had been recognized by the Court since the days of John Marshall.

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Jun. 05, 1939  Supreme Court Decisions, 1938–39
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May 31, 1938  Supreme Court Decisions, 1937–38
Jun. 01, 1937  Supreme Court Decisions, 1936–37
Jun. 01, 1936  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1935-36
Jun. 05, 1933  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1932-33
Jun. 04, 1932  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1931–32
Jun. 06, 1931  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1930–31
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Supreme Court History and Decisions