Charles Evans Hughes


Charles Evans Hughes : biography

April 11, 1862 – August 27, 1948

Following the overwhelming support that voters showed for the New Deal through Roosevelt’s overwhelming re-election in November 1936, Hughes was able to persuade Roberts no longer to base his votes on political maneuvering and to side with him in future cases regarding New Deal related policies. Roberts had voted to grant certiorari to hear the Parrish case before the election of 1936. Oral arguments occurred on December 16 and 17, 1936, with counsel for Parrish specifically asking the court to reconsider its decision in Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, which had been the basis for striking down a New York minimum wage law in Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo in the late spring of 1936.

Roberts indicated his desire to overturn Adkins immediately after oral arguments ended for the Parrish case on Dec. 17, 1936. The initial conference vote on Dec. 19, 1936 was split 4-4; with this even division on the Court, the holding of the Washington Supreme Court, finding the minimum wage statute constitutional, would stand. The eight voting justices anticipated Justice Stone—absent due to illness—would be the fifth vote necessary for a majority opinion affirming the constitutionality of the minimum wage law. As Hughes desired a clear and strong 5-4 affirmation of the Washington Supreme Court’s judgment, rather than a 4-4 default affirmation, he convinced the other justices to wait until Stone’s return before both deciding and announcing the case. In one of his notes from 1936, Hughes wrote that Roosevelt’s re-election forced the court to depart from its "fortress in public opinion" and severely weakened its capability to base its rulings on either personal or political beliefs.

President Roosevelt announced his court reform bill on February 5, 1937, the day of the first conference vote after Stone’s February 1, 1937 return to the bench. Roosevelt later made his justifications for the bill to the public on March 9, 1937 during his 9th Fireside Chat. The Court’s opinion in Parrish was not published until March 29, 1937, after Roosevelt’s radio address. Hughes wrote in his autobiographical notes that Roosevelt’s court reform proposal "had not the slightest effect on our [the court’s] decision," but due to the delayed announcement of its decision the Court was characterized as retreating under fire.

Although Hughes wrote the opinion invalidating the National Recovery Administration in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States– though the decision was also a unanimous one upheld by all of the court’s nine Justices-, he also wrote the opinions for the Court in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.,- Retrieved 2011-12-17 NLRB v. Friedman-Harry Marks Clothing Co.,- Retrieved 2011-12-17 and West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish– Retrieved 2011-12-18 which approved some New Deal measures. Hughes supervised the move of the Court from its former quarters at the U.S. Capitol to the newly constructed Supreme Court building.

Hughes wrote twice as many constitutional opinions as any of his court’s other members. "His opinions, in the view of one commentator, were concise and admirable, placing Hughes in the pantheon of great justices." Oyez project His "remarkable intellectual and social gifts…made him a superb leader and administrator. He had a photographic memory that few, if any, of his colleagues could match. Yet he was generous, kind, and forebearing in an institution where egos generally come in only one size: extra large!"