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Harvard Law Review





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Few legal scholars would dispute the constitutional, historical, and political importance of the events of 1937, when the Supreme Court, faced with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's plan to reorganize the federal judiciary, ultimately approved a sweeping interpretation of governmental authority to implement socioeconomic legislation. The course of events, although frequently canvassed, has yielded conflicting interpretations of the actions and motivations of the Justices who took part in the fabled "switch in time that saved nine."

Felix Frankfurter arguably played a pivotal role in disseminating a particular history of the events of 1937. Reversing his own privately expressed position of dismay at the Court's actions in 1937, Frankfurter, in a memorial tribute to Justice Owen Roberts in 1955, revised the history of the events of 1937, a history that placed the Court above the fray of politics in its decisionmaking.

The events of 1954–1959, the era of Brown v. Board of Education, played an integral part in shaping Frankfurter's revised history of 1937 and led to its widespread acceptance. Telling lessons about postwar legal thought and the evolution of constitutional history surfaced from the interrelationship of the aforementioned constitutional events.

Recommended Citation

Michael S. Ariens, A Thrice-Told Tale, or Felix the Cat, 107 Harv. L. Rev. 620 (1994).

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