Supreme Court a force for change? Not so fast

Story highlights

  • Supreme Court made headlines in two cases that profoundly affect the lives of millions of Americans
  • But legal scholars say court's historic role has been to block, not make, social change
  • Does court defend wealth and privilege? Defenders say court reflects will of people

(CNN)He was a poor, frail teenager who would have melted away into history, but Reuben Dagenhart became the central character in one of the U.S. Supreme Court's most notorious cases.

He worked 60 hours a week in a North Carolina textile mill, earning 10 cents a day. The work scarred his lungs and stunted his growth. It was 1916, and Dagenhart was just one of millions of child laborers who worked in dangerous mines, dank sweatshops and textile mills in early 20th-century America.
The U.S. Congress had