Journal Article

Did a Switch in Time Save Nine?

Daniel E. Ho and Kevin M. Quinn

in Journal of Legal Analysis

Published on behalf of The John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business at Harvard Law School with the support of the Considine Family Foundation

Volume 2, issue 1, pages 69-113
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 2161-7201
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1946-5319 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jla/2.1.69
Did a Switch in Time Save Nine?

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt's court-packing plan of 1937 and the “switch in time that saved nine” animate central questions of law, politics, and history. Did Supreme Court Justice Roberts abruptly switch votes in 1937 to avert a showdown with Roosevelt? Scholars disagree vigorously about whether Roberts's transformation was gradual and anticipated or abrupt and unexpected. Using newly collected data of votes from the 1931–1940 terms, we contribute to the historical understanding of this episode by providing the first quantitative evidence of Roberts's transformation. Applying modern measurement methods, we show that Roberts shifted sharply to the left in the 1936 term. The shift appears sudden and temporary. The duration of Roberts's shift, however, is in many ways irrelevant, as the long-term transformation of the Court is overwhelmingly attributable to Roosevelt's appointees.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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