The Warren Court Essay

2391 words - 10 pages

The US Supreme Court was created in Article III of the Constitution and has the ultimate authority on the interpretation of constitutional law and is therefore deemed the highest court in the nation (USSC). The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices who review cases from lower courts throughout the nation and rule on the constitutionality of the issues (Urofsky, 2001). The Supreme Court plays a large role in the American legal system because its rulings become law, affecting subsequent cases throughout the nation. During the late fifties and sixties, a time known as the Warren Court, the Supreme Court handed down multiple rulings that were controversial and especially impactful in the area of criminal investigations.
The Warren Court represents the years from 1953 to 1969 when Earl Warren was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Urofsky, 2001). During the sixteen years of the Warren Court seventeen different men served under the leadership of Chief Justice Warren (Urofsky, 2001). These associate judges, and the order in which they took office, played a large part in the decisions that were passed because they affected the shift from a more conservative court in the first half of the Warren Court to a more liberal perspective that was prevalent in the second half of the Warren Court (cite?). It is the later, more liberal era of the Warren Court that is remembered for many of its landmark cases. Of the seventeen justices of the Warren Court there were a few that were consistently influential in decisions and well-known for their opinions. The four most influential and well-known justices other than Chief Justice Warren were Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Joseph Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall.
Earl Warren has been ranked by legal historians as one of the greatest chief justices in the history of the Supreme Court; however, his true strength lied in his political skills and his ability to lead during a period rife with controversy (Urofsky, 2001). A liberal like Warren, Hugo Lafayette Black was believed in limited judicial discretion and protecting individual rights (Urofsky, 2001). Appointed in 1938, another influential associate judge of the Warren Court was Felix Frankfurter. Frankfurter emigrated from Vienna as a child and taught at Harvard Law after World War I (Urofsky, 2001). Frankfurter was considered conservative due to his deep belief in judicial restraint. William Brennan was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1953 by President Eisenhower (Urofsky, 2001). Brennan’s appointment marked a huge shift in the makeup of the Court towards liberal activism (Urofsky, 2001). Brennan’s influence came more from his ability to garner support from conservatives and “centrists” for liberal ideas than from his judicial skill (Urofsky, 2001). One of the most well-known justices of the Warren Court, if not influential, was Thurgood Marshall. Marshall is most well-known for his part as attorney in Brown v....

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