Franklin D. Roosevelt promised the country "bold, persistent experimentation" to address the Great Depression - but for quite a while his ideas were a little too bold for the justices of the Supreme Court, who struck down many New Deal laws as unconstitutional. FDR had his day: over the years he replaced many of those justices with his own men, New Dealers who then, as judges, worked boldly with the Constitution. Irascible, ingenious, and remarkably uncooperative, the four justices in Noah Feldman
's Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices
(Twelve, 2010) - Frankfurter, Douglas, Black, and Jackson - grappled with fundamental questions about government that are re-emerging in the Obama era. We have to answer them again, but Prof. Feldman has given us a constitutional handbook that is also an absorbing and entertaining quadruple biography. In our conversation, he situates the book among his other, quite disparate writings, and explains what lessons we should draw from the FDR Court for the current (remarkably similar) moment in politics and constitutional law.