Stitch Time Saves Nine Essay Scholarships

"The switch in time that saved nine" is the name given to what was perceived as the sudden jurisprudential shift by Associate JusticeOwen Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1937 case West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish.[1] Conventional historical accounts portrayed the Court's majority opinion as a strategic political move to protect the Court's integrity and independence from PresidentFranklin Roosevelt'scourt-reform bill (also known as the "court-packing plan"), which would have expanded the size of the bench up to 15 justices, though it has been argued[2] that these accounts have misconstrued the historical record.

The term itself is a reference to the aphorism "A stitch in time saves nine", meaning that preventive maintenance is preferable.[3]

Conventional account[edit]

Through the 1935–36 terms, Roberts had been the deciding vote in several 5–4 decisions invalidating New Deal legislation, casting his vote with the "conservative" bloc of the bench, the so-called "Four Horsemen". This "conservative" wing of the bench is viewed to have been in opposition to the "liberal Three Musketeers". Justice Roberts and Chief JusticeCharles Evans Hughes, the remaining two justices, were the center swing votes.

The "switch" came in the case West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, when the Court announced its opinion in March 1937.[1] Roberts joined Chief Justice Hughes, and Justices Louis Brandeis, Benjamin N. Cardozo, and Harlan Fiske Stone in upholding a Washington State minimum wage law. The decision was handed down less than two months after President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his court-reform bill. Conventional history has painted Roberts's vote as a strategic, politically motivated shift to defeat Roosevelt's proposed legislation, but the historical record also lends weight to assertions that Roberts's decision happened much earlier.

The ruling marked the end of the Lochner era, a forty-year period in which the Supreme Court often struck down legislation that regulated business activity.

Historical view[edit]

Popular as well as some scholarly understanding of the Hughes Court has typically cast it as divided between a conservative and liberal faction, with two critical swing votes. The conservative Justices Pierce Butler, James Clark McReynolds, George Sutherland and Willis Van Devanter were known as "The Four Horsemen". Opposed to them were the liberal Justices Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo and Harlan Fiske Stone, dubbed "The Three Musketeers". Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justice Owen Roberts were regarded as the swing votes on the court.[9] Recent scholarship has eschewed these labels since they suggest more legislative, as opposed to judicial differences.[10] While it is true that many rulings of the 1930s Supreme Court were deeply divided, with four justices on each side and Justice Roberts as the typical swing vote, the ideological divide this represented was linked to a larger debate in U.S. jurisprudence regarding the role of the judiciary, the meaning of the Constitution, and the respective rights and prerogatives of the different branches of government in shaping the judicial outlook of the Court.

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,[12] which had been the basis for striking down a New Yorkminimum wage law in Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo[13] in the late spring of 1936. In Tipaldo, the appellant had not challenged the Adkins precedent.[15] Having no "case or controversy" legs upon which to stand, Roberts and the rest of the majority deferred to the Adkins precedent, voting to strike the New York statute. Justice Butler authored the opinion of the Court in the Tipaldo case. He and the rest of the majority, excluding Roberts, shortly thereafter found themselves in the minority on the Parrish case.

In the Parrish case, Roberts indicated his desire to overturn Adkins immediately after oral arguments 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 Chief Justice Hughes desired a clear 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.

President Franklin D. 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. Chief Justice 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. Roosevelt also believed that because of the overwhelming support that had been shown for the New Deal in his re-election, Hughes was able to persuade Roberts to no longer base his votes on his own political beliefs and side with him during future votes on New Deal related policies. 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." [19]

The "switch", together with the retirement of Justice Van Devanter at the end of the 1937 spring term, is often viewed as having contributed to the demise of Roosevelt's court reform bill by undermining the necessity of its passage. The failure of the bill preserved the size of the U.S. Supreme Court at nine justices, as it had been since 1869, and so remains to this day.

Roberts burned his legal and judicial papers,[20] so there is no significant collection of his manuscript papers as there is for most other modern Justices. However, in 1945 Roberts did provide Justice Felix Frankfurter with a memorandum detailing his own account of the events leading up to his vote in the Parrish case. The memorandum concludes that "no action taken by the President in the interim [between the Tipaldo and Parrish cases] had any causal relation to my action in the Parrish case."[21] From this, Justice Frankfurter called the charge against Roberts "false" and concluded

It is one of the most ludicrous illustrations of the power of lazy repetition of uncritical talk that a judge of with the character of Roberts should have attributed to him a change of judicial views out of deference to political considerations. ... Intellectual responsibility should, one would suppose, save a thoughtful man from the familiar trap of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.[21]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ ab300U.S.379 (1937)
  2. ^See citations in the Conventional account section.
  3. ^The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
  4. ^Jenson, Carol E. (1992). "New Deal". In Hall, Kermit L.Oxford Companion to the United States Supreme Court. Oxford University Press. 
  5. ^Kalman, Laura (2005). "AHR Forum: The Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the New Deal". American Historical Review. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association. 110 (4). 
  6. ^261U.S.525 (1923)
  7. ^298U.S.587 (1936)
  8. ^Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo, 298 U.S. 587, 604-05 (1936) (“The petition for the writ sought review upon the ground that this case is distinguishable from that one [Adkins]. No application has been made for reconsideration of the constitutional question there decided. ... He is not entitled, and does not ask, to be heard upon the question whether the Adkins case should be overruled. He maintains that it [the New York minimum wage law] may be distinguished on the ground that the statutes are vitally dissimilar.”).
  9. ^Devins, Neal (1996). "Government Lawyers and the New Deal". William & Mary Law School. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  10. ^Carter, Edward L.; Adams, Edward E. (August 15, 2012). "Justice Owen J. Roberts on 1937". The Green Bag. 
  11. ^ abFrankfurter, Felix (December 1955). "Mr. Justice Roberts". University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Retrieved February 22, 2015. 


  • Cushman, Barry (1998). Rethinking the New Deal Court: The Structure of a Constitutional Revolution. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511532-1. 
  • Leuchtenburg, William E. (1995). The Supreme Court Reborn: The Constitutional Revolution in the Age of Roosevelt. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511131-6. 
  • McKenna, Marian C. (2002). Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-packing Crisis of 1937. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. ISBN 978-0-8232-2154-7. 
  • Philips, Michael J. (2001). The Lochner Court, Myth and Reality: Substantive Due Process from the 1890s to the 1930s. Westport, Conn: Praeger, Greenwood. p. 10. ISBN 0-275-96930-4. 
  • White, G. Edward (2000). The Constitution and the New Deal. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-00831-1. 

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

“A stitch in time save time” is a phrase that means that a timely effort plays an important role in preventing more work that would have to be done later. In addition, the phrase also means that an individual reduces the possibility of a problem occurring or worsening in the future when he takes a prompt action. A “stitch in time” usually means that a sewing process that is done promptly may save the need for additional stitching or having to replace the entire fabric. It may be argued that the individuals who initially used this phrase may have referred to making a stitch that would save the need for having to mend the nine stitches. The proverbial use of this phrase is to give an incentive to individuals who are lazy and inform them on the significance of being proactive. Studies have revealed that most lazy people are often left behind by their colleagues and they rarely manage to achieve their objectives.

The phrase has played an instrumental role in motivating people to be active when it comes to achievement of personal and organizational goals. Not only does it mean that a hard working individual goes a long way in enhancing the productivity of an organization, but there is also an increased chance of personal development. People are usually provided with an incentive of being active in a timely manner since time does not wait for any man. Furthermore, the proverbial expression goes a long way in enabling and providing people with an incentive that motivates hard work and innovation. Basically, the aim of this proverb is to promote productivity, enabling all individuals to enhance their intrinsic and personal skills. Further, being active can ensure that a person is able to save time that would have otherwise be lost as a result of laziness.

It is better to act sooner than later and this implies that procrastination usually lead to the dragging of a job or certain activity. A stitch in time saves nine is a proverb that describes numerous kinds of real-life world examples. For example, an employee who works hard is instrumental in enabling an organization to be productive. On the other hand, a lazy employee usually drags behind his colleagues especially when activities are being done in shifts. In a construction site, employees are tasked with different roles, including mixing of sand, carrying water, cutting metal, and so on. Therefore, an individual who is tasked with mixing concrete must collaborate with employees who bring sand, gravel, and water so that the final product can be appropriate. However, an employee who fails to act effectively on his role would lead to the delay of the entire team of employees. Therefore, a stitch in time saves people from loss, wastes and other troubles.

It is therefore evident that many people tend to suffer from a wide range of problems especially when they are unable to properly utilize their time. A good example is a student who is sitting for exams and he is required to revise his classwork. A student who is able to wisely utilize his time and revise his work has a higher possibility of excelling compared to the one who waits up to the last minute. On the hand, a lazy student usually ends up failing his exams. Taking action plays an instrumental role in enabling a person to succeed in life and this includes saving crucial time that would have been lost through laziness. Taking an early action also goes a long way in saving the problems that would have occurred if a person neglected on his duties.

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