Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Supreme Court The Supreme Court - Image of hands holding a gavel.
Check local listings
Home Timeline Games Supreme Court History
Timeline
Supreme Court Developments
E-Mail this Page Print Format Glossary

Click on a date to learn more about Supreme Court developments during a specific time period.
1787 1794 1810 1833 1857 1866 1874 1883 1896 1910 1918 1930 1935 1941 1954 1963 1966 1973 1981 1989 1995 2000 2005
The Constitutional Revolution
1935
The Court moves out of the old Senate Chamber in the Capitol and into the newly completed Supreme Court Building, modeled after a classic Greek temple. Most of the justices initially recoil from the splendor of their new surroundings and follow Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes' lead in declining the use of their new private suites, instead continuing to work from home, as has been their custom. When Hugo Black joins the Court in 1937, he displays no such qualms -- and, because the justices' chambers have remained unoccupied, even though he is the Court's most junior justice he is able to move into an especially large and luxurious corner suite, which he will keep for the next 34 years.

1935
In Grovey v. Townsend, the Court finds that white-only political primaries -- held, at the time, by the Democratic Party in several Southern states -- are constitutional. The decision states that political parties are private actors composed of voluntary members, and are therefore free to exclude non-whites.

February 1937
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announces his court-packing plan, proposing that Congress allow him to add one new justice to the Supreme Court for every sitting justice older than 70 (up to 15 justices). Roosevelt's proposal comes in the wake of several Court decisions overturning legislation -- including the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act -- central to Roosevelt's popular New Deal agenda. The proposal is never adopted, but over his next three terms Roosevelt will have the opportunity to appoint all nine members of the Court.

Photo of migrant workers during the Great Depression.
During the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" sought to alleviate widespread poverty brought about by the Great Depression. The Supreme Court voided many of his programs, setting up a politial clash between the executive and judicial branches.
March 1937
In a reversal of its 1923 decision in Adkins v. Children's Hospital, the Court upholds a Washington, D.C. minimum wage law for women and ushers in what historians have called the "Constitutional Revolution" of 1937. Writing for the 5-4 majority in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, Chief Justice Hughes finds a "compelling" state interest in protecting workers from the "exploitation" of "unconscionable employers" like the West Coast Hotel Company, which had ignored the minimum-wage statute.

April 1937
The Court continues the "Constitutional Revolution," voting to uphold the National Labor Relations Act (or Wagner Act) of 1935 -- a cornerstone of President Roosevelt's New Deal legislation that guarantees the right of unions to organize and bargain collectively without employer interference. The decision in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. broadly expands the reach of federal regulatory power to include the activities of mines, mills, and factories previously held to be only "local" in nature and therefore immune to such regulation.

May 1937
Six weeks after issuing its opinion in the Jones & Laughlin case, the Court releases three more equally important decisions, upholding both the retirement benefits and the unemployment compensation provisions of the Social Security Act of 1935.

December 1937
The Court upholds a Georgia poll tax in Breedlove v. Suttles. The decision states that because it is applied to all races, Georgia's poll tax violates neither the Fourteenth nor the Fifteenth Amendment. Some Southern states continue to employ poll taxes until the mid-1960s.