Reorganization of the Federal Judiciary

September 11, 1937

Report Outline
Provision for New Studies of Court Reform
Adams, Jefferson, and Judiciary Reform
Supreme Court in Reconstruction Period
The Judiciary Controversy of 1937

Provision for New Studies of Court Reform

While administration leaders decided, one month before adjournment of Congress, to give up the attempt to obtain enactment this year of legislation for reorganization of the Supreme Court, it has been indicated that efforts to accomplish the objectives set forth in President Roosevelt's message of February 5, 1937, have not been finally abandoned. After the bill for reform of judicial procedure in the lower federal courts had been pushed through the Senate on August 7, Senator Hatch (D., N. M.), who was one of the authors of the compromise court bill recommitted to the Judiciary Committee on July 22, said to the Senate that the measure just accepted, while good so far as it went, “does not cover in any degree the reorganization of the federal judiciary, and it does not touch upon any of the defects which have been pointed out in weeks past.” When he signed the latter bill August 24, the President stated that it registered “a moderate and limited advance into a field which calls for further and more complete exploration.”

On August 6 the Senate adopted a resolution sponsored by Senators Hatch and Burke (D., Neb.) providing for appointment of a committee, to be composed of the chairman and six other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “to make a full and complete investigation and study of all matters relating to the reorganization of the courts of the United States, the appointment of additional judges for any of such courts, and the reform of judicial procedure.” The House of Representatives on August 11 adopted a resolution directing its Judiciary Committee to investigate “the organization and operation of, and the administration of justice in, the courts of the United States inferior to the Supreme Court; the jurisdiction, both as to territory and subject matter; the procedure; rules of practice; and costs.” The reports of these committees may provide a starting point at the next session of Congress for revival of the whole question of reorganization of the federal judiciary.

Court Reorganization by Constitutional Amendment

When it was announced August 3 that President Roosevelt would make a nation-wide radio broadcast September 17, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, several Democratic senators predicted that this address would mark the opening of a campaign by the President to carry his court fight to the people. Senator Lewis of Illinois, Democratic whip of the Senate, predicted that Roosevelt would now seek promotion of court reform by the process of constitutional amendment.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Federal Judiciary
Jul. 27, 2001  Judges and Politics
Mar. 13, 1998  The Federal Judiciary
Sep. 11, 1937  Reorganization of the Federal Judiciary
Judicial Appointments
Supreme Court History and Decisions