The Supreme Court and National Politics

sacco.jpg (77796 bytes)
Cartoon criticizing the Sacco/Vanzetti decision, 1927


Schenk v. United States (civil liberties in wartime)

Assignment: Everyone should come to class having read the decision, and prepared to ask devilishly challenging questions of the moot court participants. Part of your overall moot court grade for the course will be based on the questions that you ask of the moot courts in which you do not personally participate.
After the finishing of our first moot court, we'll be spending most of our time on the Court itself--and its key role in shaping conservatism during the decade between 1919 and 1929. The key document reading is the Bailey case, in which the Court ruled unconstitutional a law placing a tax on child labor. The decision is a very easy read. The period is also notable for the overt politicking of the Supreme Court, especially Chief Justice William Howard Taft, and the profound national debates over freedom of speech, rights of the accused, and nativism--all sparked by the Sacco-Vanzetti case, to which I have a couple of links below.
Felix Frankfurter on the Sacco-Vanzetti case
Sacco-Vanzetti overview
the Taft Court: Bailey (1922)



1.) To what extent did the Supreme Court set the tenor for the conservatism of the 1920s? Or was it more responding to popular attitudes?

2.) To what extent did the 1920s continue to reflect the mores of a past era: i.e., Lochner regarding economic policy?

3.) Was the 1920s Supreme Court hostile to the concept of government regulation, or was it, in the words of one historian, a proponent of "dual federalism," that is, opposing federal government powers but having little problem with action by state governments?