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A Thrice-Told Tale, or Felix the Cat

Michael Ariens
Harvard Law Review
Vol. 107, No. 3 (Jan., 1994), pp. 620-676
DOI: 10.2307/1341969
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1341969
Page Count: 57
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A Thrice-Told Tale, or Felix the Cat
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Abstract

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." In this Article, Professor Ariens argues that Felix Frankfurter 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. Professor Ariens argues that 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. Professor Ariens draws, from the interrelationship of these two constitutional events, telling lessons about post-War legal thought and the evolution of constitutional history.

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