Four Horsemen (Supreme Court)


Four Horsemen (Supreme Court)

The "Four Horsemen" was the nickname given to four conservative members of the United States Supreme Court during the 1932-1937 terms, who opposed the New Deal agenda of President Franklin Roosevelt. [Ball, Howard. "Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior". Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN 0-19-507814-4. Page 89.] They were Justices James Clark McReynolds, George Sutherland, Willis Van Devanter, and Pierce Butler. They were opposed by the liberal "Three Musketeers" - Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, and Harlan Stone. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justice Owen J. Roberts controlled the balance. Hughes was more inclined to join the liberals, but Roberts was often swayed to the side of the conservatives.Lazarus, Edward. "Closed Chambers. The Rise, Fall and Future of the Modern Supreme Court". Penguin Books Ltd, 1999, ISBN 0-14-029356-0. Page 283.]

In the 1935 term, the Four Horsemen, together with Roberts and Hughes, voided the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 (United States v. Butler, along with the Federal Farm Bankruptcy Act, the Railroad Act, and the Coal Mining ActBall, Howard. Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior. Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN 0-19-507814-4. Page 90.] . In "Carter v. Carter Coal Company", 298 U.S. 238 (1936), the Four together with Roberts voided legislation regulating the coal industry; the same line-up voided a New York minimum wage law for women and children in "Morehead v. New York", 298 U.S. 587 (1936). The Court had also struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States 295 U.S. 495 (1935) the previous May, but that decision was unanimous, with Cardozo writing separately joined by Stone, and Brandeis joining the Horsemen, Roberts, and Hughes in an opinion written by the latter.

The Four Horsemen would ride in a car to and from the Court together to coordinate positions and arguments. They were bitterly opposed to the New Deal policies intended to end unemployment and encourage economic recovery. They also invalidated state laws that tried to eliminate unfair treatment of labor by big business. The Four's actions prevented Congress and the states from expeditiously acting to regulate the economy.

It was the success of the Horsemen in striking down New Deal legislation that led to Roosevelt's court-packing scheme. "The switch in time that saved nine" together with the retirement of Van Devanter in June 1937 and his replacement by Hugo Black ended the Four Horsemen's domination of the Court.Hugo Black and President Franklin Roosevelt considered the Four the "direct descendants of Darwin and Spencer."

Modern Use of the Name

Around 2003, the nickname surfaced again with respect to four contemporary Washington powerbrokers who may have shaped recommendations to President George W. Bush with respect to the Supreme Court nomination to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor: C. Boyden Gray, Edwin Meese III, Jay Sekulow, and Leonard Leo. [cite web |url=http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/050725/25court.htm |title=High-stakes Players: How a quartet of power brokers known as the Four Horsemen is shaping the future of the high court |accessdate=2008-07-13 |author=Liz Halloran |date=2005-07-17 |publisher=US News and World Report]

References


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