How Supreme Court Pick Brett Kavanaugh Could Return US Policy to the Era of Robber Barons | DeSmogBlog
As Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings get under way, understanding his appointment’s potential impacts for corporate regulation and the climate means looking back all the way to 1890.
That was when a nearly 50-year stretch known to legal historians as the “Lochner era” kicked off — a time better known in U.S. history as the age of the robber barons.
The Lochner era gets its name from a 1905 Supreme Court case, Lochner v. New York, which threw out state limits on the number of hours bakers could work in a week. This case’s reasoning was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1937 case that rejected a half-century of judicial thinking — doctrines that had led the court to toss out laws governing working conditions, creating food safety standards, and barring child labor.
In 1937, as the Great Depression raged, the Supreme Court faced pressure from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, frustrated after the Court rejected 11 of 13 early New Deal programs as unconstitutional. The Constitution doesn’t say how many justices are allowed to sit on the Supreme Court — and FDR threatened to add enough justices to change the court’s leanings.