The question of judicial reform is a pressing one and corrective measures are long overdue. The President's proposal therefore should be studied with care. A great deal that he desires is justified and much is to be questioned. The creation of the office of proctor, the direct transfer of cases involving constitutional issues from the court of origin to the Supreme Court, the notification of the Attorney General's office before an injunction is issued, each of these measures is worthy of consideration. The "delicate subject" of old age and its effect on the competent work is also deserving of much thought, but where it is coupled with the suggestion for fifteen judges the complexion of the matter changes.
There can be no doubt, and there is no doubt in the minds of the country, that the real purport of the message Friday is not judicial reform but the abolition of judicial interference with New Deal measures by packing the court. For some this is the final unforgivable sin, the long-feared crime, marking the climax of an unsavory career. For others, who sympathize with such New Deal aims as social security, minimum wage laws, or conservative measures, the new proposal creates an embarrassing and highly unpleasant dilemma. The ends meet with nothing but approval; but the suggestion of packing the court to obtain these ends meets with nothing but censure.
Admitting the overwhelming nature of the November verdict, there is no indication that this implies Presidential dictation of the Supreme Court, or even serious political attack upon the Court. Admitting even that the Court is often a nuisance to legislators who would reform present the social system at once, there can be no doubt but that this is exactly what the majority of the people conceive to be the function of the court.
When President Roosevelt suggests in effect six new judges be appointed by him, he is disregarding a fundamental tenet of American democracy, the independence of the judiciary. The Court long been inviolate to both parties and unless it remains so the entire structure of the Federal Government will be altered. Last November the issue was not raised. President Roosevelt is willing to revert to the discredited methods of Republican Reconstructionists. No reading of history, no twisting of logic can support a policy of packing the Court, whatever the ends in view.