Washington Law Review


There is a tendency among present and former law students to think that the development of the nature and extent of the authority of the federal judiciary, and of the Supreme Court of the United States in particular, may be found in the celebrated cases decided by that Court. To an extent this is undoubtedly true. However, at least two major political struggles in this nation have had as much to do with defining the nature of the judicial power in the federal system as anybut a handful of the major decisions of the Supreme Court. No reported judicial decision of these political struggles exists, because each was conducted in its entirety within or between the other branches of the federal government. Yet, both struggles are nonetheless precedents in the unwritten constitutional law dealing with Article III of the United States Constitution and the power of the federal courts. These events are first, the impeachment of Justice Samuel Chase by the House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal by the Senate in the first decade of the 19th century; and, second, the proposal by President Franklin Roosevelt referred to by its supporters as the "Court Reorganization Plan" and by its opponents as the "Court Packing Plan."

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