February 5, 1937

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Only weeks into his second term, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took on the U.S. Supreme Court–which had invalidated a series of New Deal programs–by offering a plan to ease the load of the “aged, overworked justices,” whom critics derided as the “nine old men.”

The plan would have allowed the president to nominate an additional justice whenever one over age 70 did not resign, until the court had 15 members. And it just so happened that six of the nine justices were already over 70.

The proposal was roundly denounced, going down to defeat in Congress. But soon the court began upholding New Deal programs, muting calls for its radical restructuring. Seven justices left the bench over the next four and a half years, allowing Roosevelt to remake the court through traditional means.

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