The Court at War

FDR, His Justices, and the World They Made

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By Cliff Sloan

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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, in the ninth year of his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt had molded his Court. He had appointed seven of the nine justices—the most by any president except George Washington—and handpicked the chief justice.
But the wartime Roosevelt Court had two faces. One was bold and progressive, the other supine and abject, cowed by the charisma of the revered president.
The Court at War explores this pivotal period. It provides a cast of unforgettable 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 pick to be his running mate in 1944, to Roosevelt’s former attorney general and Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson.
The justices’ shameless capitulation and unwillingness to cross their beloved president highlight the dangers of an unseemly closeness between Supreme Court justices and their political patrons. But the FDR Court’s finest moments also provided a robust defense of individual rights, rights the current Court has put in jeopardy. Sloan’s intimate portrait is a vivid, instructive tale for modern times.


On Sale
Sep 19, 2023
Page Count
512 pages

Cliff Sloan

About the Author

Cliff Sloan is a former Supreme Court clerk. He has written about the Supreme Court for many publications, including NewsweekThe Washington Post, and Slate.

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