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Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell

Size Of The Supreme Court

There are currently nine justices serving on the Supreme Court: one chief justice and eight associate justices. The number was established in 1869 and has not been altered since. According to Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution, Congress has the power to determine the structure and jurisdiction of the federal judicial system. Congress has changed the size of the Supreme Court on seven different accessions throughout American history, often as a result of westward expansion, but occasionally driven by an underlying political motive. For example, when Andrew Johnson nominated Henry Stanbey to replace Justice John Catron in 1865, Congress changed the number of justices from ten to seven in an attempt to stack the deck against Johnson's Reconstruction initiatives.

The most radical, and blatantly political, attempt to change the size of the Supreme Court came from Franklin D. Roosevelt who, in 1937, moved to increase the number of justices to 15 in an effort to pack the Court with justices sympathetic to his New Deal legislation. Roosevelt's efforts were not in vain, however, as the Court, fearing legislative and executive encroachment on its powers, began upholding some of Roosevelt's policies.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Home Building Loan Association v. Blaisdell - Significance, Supreme Court Finds That The Contract Clause Is Not Absolute, Size Of The Supreme Court