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In sharp contrast to the stand of 18 members of the Law School Faculty in a petition last Monday, James F. Landis, Dean designate of the Law School, staunchly supported President Roosevelt's proposal for reorganizing the Supreme Court, speaking last night in Chicago against Senator Burton K. Wheeler, who attacked the proposal.
In 1905 the Court adopted a principle, said Landis, which threatens to paralyze legislative action and the popular will, "If a law is fair, reasonable, and necessary, it is constitutional," the Court declared. "But if it is unreasonable or irrational, it is unconstitutional." In other words the Justices base their decisions concerning constitutionality upon their personal opinions, not the Constitution.
Dean Landis maintained that on this account "modern constitutional lawyers must study the prejudices of the Justices as well as the law. This spreads uncertainty throughout the whole body of Law, making it a matter of guesswork!" Here applause interrupted him.
According to Landis, the real issue in the Court proposal is "the degree to which this nation shall be a Government of laws or of men." But this issue is clouded by its novelty and the "curious belief that seems to have grown up, that the court is immune and above criticism." Franklin Roosevelt is not the first president to take issue of the Court, Landis stated. "Criticism of government is the very essence of Democracy!"
In closing Landis advocated the reform in order that the Government may be able to handle its problems wisely and expediously, an ability which is "the essence of the survival of Democratic government."
Senator Wheeler, however, recalled that Landis had once written a book in which he states that any tampering with the Supreme Court would result in disaster.
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