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.
Cliff Sloan is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches constitutional law and criminal justice. He has argued seven Supreme Court cases. His previous government positions include special envoy for Guantanamo closure, associate counsel to the president, and assistant to the solicitor general. His commentary on the Supreme Court and legal issues has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate, and other publications, and on television and radio networks.
Sloan will be in conversation with Joan Biskupic. Joan Biskupic, CNN’s Senior Supreme Court analyst, has covered the Supreme Court for more than twenty-five years and has written several books on the judiciary. She is the author of the recently published Nine Black Robes: Inside the Supreme Court’s Drive to the Right and its Historic Consequences.
This event is free with first come, first served seating.