Earl Warren

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Earl Warren (March 19, 1891 – July 9, 1974) was the 14th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and one of only two people to be elected Governor of California three times. Before holding these positions, Warren served as a district attorney for Alameda County, California and Attorney General of California. He is best known for the sweeping decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, especially regarding the rights of the accused, ending school prayer, and requiring "one-man-one vote" rules of apportionment. He made the Court a power center on a more even base with Congress and the presidency especially through four landmark decisions: Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), and Miranda v. Arizona (1966).

As governor of California, Warren was a very popular Republican and popular across party lines, so much so that in the 1946 gubernatorial election he won the nominations of the Democratic, Progressive, and Republican parties and was reelected virtually without opposition. His tenure as Chief Justice was as divisive as his governorship was unifying. Liberals generally hailed the landmark rulings issued by the Warren Court which affected, among other things, the legal status of racial segregation, civil rights, separation of church and state, and police arrest procedure in the United States. In the years that followed, the Warren Court became recognized as a high point in the use of judicial power in the effort to effect social progress in the United States. Warren himself became widely regarded as one of the most influential Supreme Court justices in the history of the United States and perhaps the single most important jurist of the 20th century.

In addition to the constitutional offices he held, Warren was also the vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 1948, and chaired the Warren Commission, which was formed to investigate the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Scholars agree that as a judge, Warren does not rank with intellectual giants such as Louis Brandeis, Hugo Black, or William J. Brennan, Jr. in terms of jurisprudence. His opinions were not always clearly written, and his legal logic was often muddled. His strength lay in his clear vision that the Constitution embodied natural rights that could not be denied to the citizenry and that the Supreme Court had a special role in protecting those rights.[2]

Political conservatives attacked his judicial activism as inappropriate and have called for courts to be deferential to the elected political branches. Political liberals sometimes admit that the Warren Court went too far in some areas, but insist that most of its controversial decisions struck a responsive chord in the nation and have become embedded in the law.[3]

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