1891 March 19

Happy Birthday Earl Warren!


The 14th Chief Justice of the United States (1953–1969), Earl Warren’s reputation as a leader of the Court during his tenure is firmly established, and he stands out as one of the most influential chief justices in U.S. history. The name “Warren Court” is today a short-hand term for the strong civil libertarian posture of the Court under his leadership. He is particularly famous for working to achieve a unanimous opinion in the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education, declaring segregated schools unconstitutional, on May 17, 1954. He also wrote the Court’s opinion in the famous Miranda decision (June 13, 1966), which requires the police to advise persons arrested that they have a right to remain silent and also a right to an attorney. Considering the fact that Warren had been a tough “law and order” District Attorney in Oakland, California, early in his career, many people were struck by the passion of his opinions with regard to police misconduct.

The major blot on Warren’s career was that as California Attorney General in early 1942 he was a vocal advocate of the evacuation of the Japanese-Americans from the west coast. (He did not advocate internment, but then even the federal government had never thought about what it would do with the evacuees.) In later years, he never fully apologized or even explained his position in this tragedy, and made only one brief reference to it in his autobiography.

Read: Jim Newton: Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made (2006)

Watch a 1952 interview with Warren, before he was appointed to the Supreme Court: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbqB9lxBITU

See Earl Warren’s Top 5 Quotes here.

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