Interpreting Secretary Perkins

18 Green Bag 2d 13 (2014)

Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1445

14 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2014

Date Written: December 10, 2014


This essay is my contribution to an exchange with Professor Daniel R. Ernst of Georgetown University Law Center concerning the timing of a visit by Chief Justice Hughes and his wife to the Pennsylvania summer home of Justice Owen Roberts. In the 1950s, former Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins recounted in the oral history interview she gave to Columbia University that Mrs. Roberts had reported to her that Hughes and Roberts had held extended, private conversations during that visit. It has been argued by some scholars that the visit took place during the summer of 1936, shortly after the Court had invalidated New York State’s minimum wage law for women in Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo, with some scholars suggesting that in those conversations Hughes was responding to the public outcry following that decision by attempting to persuade his junior colleague to be more supportive of social and regulatory legislation in future cases. In our exchange, Professor Ernst argues that the visit in question took place in the summer of 1936. I contend that the preponderance of the evidence locates the visit during the summer of 1935, nearly a year before Tipaldo was decided, in which case the conversations that Secretary Perkins described could not have proceeded as some have speculated they may have.

Keywords: New Deal, Hughes Court, Owen Roberts, Charles Evans Hughes, Frances Perkins

JEL Classification: K4, K40

Suggested Citation

Cushman, Barry, Interpreting Secretary Perkins (December 10, 2014). 18 Green Bag 2d 13 (2014), Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1445, Available at SSRN:

Barry Cushman (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

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