Oral Argument in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish

Here’s something that’s been bothering me. I cannot find any accounts of the oral argument in West Coast Hotel, which was the case that marked the Court’s switch on the New Deal.  Newspaper coverage of oral arguments was spotty back then.  Some cases got a lot, but most got none.  (The New York Times, for example, merely noted that the argument in West Coast Hotel happened without saying more.)  And there were no transcripts of argument the way that there are today.

I ask because I find it surprising that Justice Roberts did not tip his hand at oral argument that he would switch his view on the constitutionality of the minimum wage for women.  Or maybe he did and nobody was paying attention.  I’ll keep looking to see if some other paper did provide more detail on what happened in Court, but it’s a shame if no record exists at all.

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5 Responses

  1. John Dereszewski says:

    I thought in those days, the Justices were a lot more passive during oral arguments and would often allow the advocates to talk on – and maybe even read on – for many minutes without being interrupted by any rude questions. So the fact that Roberts might not have said anything during the Parrish oral argument may not reveal very much.

  2. Gerard Magliocca says:

    True in general, but there’s no way to know if that was true here.

  3. Joe says:

    His later memo on the matter is interesting:

    http://newdeal.feri.org/court/roberts.htm

    Not sure if this is of any assistance, but this provides some analysis of the oral argument & its coverage:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2040771

  4. Shag from Brookline says:

    Joe, once again, comes up with relevant links. Frankfurter was appointed a Justice early in 1939, almost two years after the decision in West Coast Hotel. Thomas Reed Powell, a colleague of Frankfurter at Harvard Law School, in his James S. Carpentier Lectures in 1955 titled “Vagaries and Varieties in Constitutional Interpretation” published by Columbia University Press, at page 81, note 89, briefly discusses Justice Roberts’ vote in West Coast Hotel, contrasting it with his earlier vote in the Tipaldo case. Perhaps Powell had been informed by Frankfurter of the Roberts Memo Joe links to. (Sometime back Joe informed me that the Lectures are available via Google Books.)

  5. Joe says:

    I gather regular transcripts began to be available in the 1950s:

    http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/library/whatwedo/researchguides/supreme-court-oral.cfm

    A bit strange they didn’t have transcripts back then. Of course, even if you did, they only started to label the justices who asked the question in the official transcripts a few years back. Before then, it could be tricky, though if you listened to the tapes, many of the justices have distinctive voices. Still, I have seen some confusion in certain accounts on who asked what question during let’s say the oral arguments of Roe v. Wade.