President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as the fourteenth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1953. Warren had been the governor of California twice and was also on the republican ticket for Vice President under Thomas Dewey. It was assumed that Warren would pickup where his successor Fred Vinson left off as a conservative member of the Supreme Court, but instead Warren positioned himself as a liberal. When Warren took over as Chief Justice, justices who aligned with judicial activism and those who were in favor of judicial restraint divided the Supreme Court. One of Warren’s goals was to renew the Supreme Courts role in defending individual rights.
Warren presided over several civil rights landmark cases including Brown vs. Board of Education I and II, which would spark the great civil rights movement. Warren also presided over cases such as McGowan vs. Maryland and also Tropp vs. Dulles.
In Brown vs. the Board of Education, Warren was greatly criticized for not appealing to the precedent (Plessy vs. Ferguson), and rather relying on common sense and fairness. In Chief Justices Warren’s dissenting opinion of Brown vs. Board of Education I, he stated ” Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments . … To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community.. .that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.” His final statement emphasized that separate but equal facilities are inherently unequal, and also that such a doctrine deprived the plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The unanimous decision uncoiled previous twists of the Constitution that focused solely on the belief that “separate but equal facilities did not imply any type of racial inferiority. In 1966 Warren and his court had another major decision to deal with, “Miranda v. State of Arizona.” The case dealt with criminal suspects and their rights. The court’s decision was that criminal suspects had to be informed of their rights before questioning. Warren and the Supreme Court also ruled decisions dealing with legislative apportionment, the basic rights of citizenship, and limitation of the use of libel laws. Again, Warren received both criticism and praise as a result of his judicial performances.
After such landmark cases, Warren’s leadership in these cases became a political institution known as ” The Warren Court”, with a heavy emphasis on equality and civil rights. The Warren Court used judicial activism and judicial review to interpret the authority and infallibility of the Supreme Court to promote the importance of individual rights. If those individual rights were seen as infringed, the case was likely to be overturned. Warren presided over Brown v. Louisiana 1966, a case where a black student was arrested for protesting a segregated library. Again the Warren Court looked to the 14th Amendments guaranteeing the freedom of speech and assembly, ruling that these rights are not confined to verbal expression.
In another case the Warren Court ruled on Yates v. United States 1956. In this case the court overturned the convictions of Communist leaders under the Smith Act. Under the Smith Act any person could be arrested and jailed for advocating the violent over throw of the United States government. The Court ruled that the Smith Act violated the defendants First Amendment rights. In short, the Warren court supplemented one of the most notable movements in the history of the United States, Warren’s emphasis on individual rights and equality were stepping stones for Civil Rights activists, basically giving them protection under the Constitution.