By the summer of 1941, Franklin Roosevelt had molded the Supreme Court. He had appointed seven of the nine justices—the most by any president except George Washington—and handpicked the Chief Justice. But the wartime Roosevelt Court had two faces. One was bold and progressive, the other supine and abject, cowed by the charisma of the revered president.
The Court at War: FDR, His Justices, and the World They Made, by Harvard Club member Cliff Sloan ’79 JD ’84, explores this pivotal period. It provides a cast of unforgettable characters in the justices—from the mercurial, Vienna-born intellectual Felix Frankfurter to the Alabama populist Hugo Black; from the western prodigy William O. Douglas, FDR’s initial pick to be his running mate in 1944, to Roosevelt’s former Attorney General and Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson.
The justices’ shameless capitulation and unwillingness to cross their beloved president highlight the dangers of an unseemly closeness between Supreme Court justices and their political patrons. But the FDR Court’s finest moments also provided a robust defense of individual rights, rights the current Court has put in jeopardy.
The book provides a vivid, instructive tale for modern times, particularly as presidential candidates attempt to drum up support by promising to further transform, and politicize, the Court. It has been acclaimed as “a gripping, behind-the-scenes look” (Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus), a “dramatic saga” with “eerie echoes to today” (filmmaker Ken Burns), “a fascinating and important story” (Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Harvard Professor Annette Gordon Reed), “essential reading” (ABC News commentator, podcast host, and Professor Kate Shaw), and a “beautifully written book” that “will surely be regarded as the definitive work about the Court during this pivotal point in American history” (Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky). It can be ordered at Politics & Prose, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org. Or, we’re delighted to be able to offer the book at a discounted price onsite, if you’d like to have Cliff sign your copy.
About the speaker:
Cliff Sloan ’79 JD ’84 is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice. He previously worked in government, law firms, and The Washington Post Company. He has experience in all three branches of the government, including work on issues such as the prospective closure of Guantanamo, as well as private practice. He has argued seven cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mixed Greens Salad
Grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrot and croutons with ranch dressing and balsamic vinaigrette
Pan-Roasted Lemon Thyme Chicken Breast (GF)
Chicken topped with a lemon vinaigrette
Butter sauce, capers and lemon
Red Quinoa Stuffed Pepper
Roasted yellow pepper stuffed with quinoa, leeks and
Brussels Sprouts with apricots and almonds (Vegan, GF)
Garlic Chive Mashed Potato (Vegan, GF)
Chef’s assorted sweets
Plus beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee & tea
Dress Code: Business Casual
Covid-related Safety Requirements: If you have recently tested positive or have symptoms, please do not attend this event. The Club encourages everyone to be vaccinated and boosted, and to follow other prevention steps recommended by the CDC and local public health authorities.