Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date



This article reviews The New Deal Lawyers by Peter H. Irons (1982).

The government lawyers who helped shape and defend New Deal agencies have received little attention from scholars. Any oversight has now, however, been redressed. The New Deal Lawyers provides a detailed and careful study of the litigation process that preceded the New Deal's 1937 court triumphs. Peter Irons' book focuses on the activities of three key agencies and their general counsels: the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and Donald Richberg; the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) and Jerome Frank; and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Charles Fahy. Each lawyer had a distinctive style, and not surprisingly, the author concludes that the counsel's style determined how his agency responded to constitutional challenges. Richberg tried to use political pressure to settle disagreements. Frank preferred negotiation to litigation; as originally structured, his office did not even have a litigation section. Fahy alone stressed the importance of gaining court approval of his agency. NLRB lawyers carefully selected test cases, engaged in forum-shopping, and wrote sharply focused briefs designed to present issues in a favorable light to a generally hostile judiciary.

Publication Citation

18 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 611-613 (1983) (reviewing The New Deal Lawyers by Peter H. Irons (1982))