Chief Justice Earl Warren

Chief Justice Earl Warren joined the U.S. Supreme Court on October 5, 1953, replacing Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson. Warren was born on March 19, 1891 in Los Angeles, California, but his family soon moved north to Bakersfield. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, from which he received his undergraduate degree in 1912 and his law degree two years later. Warren then was admitted to the California bar and soon entered private practice. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during the First World War but did not see active combat.

Soon after the war ended, Warren launched a career in public service. He became Deputy City Attorney for Oakland, California and then Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County, where Oakland is located. In 1925, Warren became the Alameda County District Attorney. He was elected as California Attorney General in 1938 and won the California gubernatorial election in 1942. Warren served as Governor of California for over a decade. He won reelection twice, becoming the only California Governor elected to three consecutive terms.

On October 2, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Warren to the Chief Justice seat on the U.S. Supreme Court during a recess of the Senate. He began his duties three days later. Eisenhower formally nominated him for the seat on January 11, 1954, and the Senate confirmed him on March 1. Warren would serve on the Court until the end of the 1960s, spearheading a sweeping expansion of constitutional rights.

Some of Warren’s greatest contributions came in the area of race relations. Less than a year after joining the Court, he wrote perhaps the most famous opinion in its history. This is Brown v. Board of Education, which mandated the racial desegregation of public schools. Writing for a unanimous Court, Warren cast aside the "separate but equal" principle that had buttressed segregation for half a century. He succinctly concluded that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Toward the end of his tenure, Warren again wrote for a unanimous Court in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Warren also reshaped the rights of criminal suspects. In the 1966 decision of Miranda v. Arizona, he built on the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in crafting the "Miranda warnings" that police officers must issue before custodial interrogations. These rights include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Two years after Miranda, Warren defined the standard for "stop and frisks" by police in Terry v. Ohio.

In Reynolds v. Sims, Warren advanced the principle of "one person, one vote." He wrote for the Court in ruling that the Fourteenth Amendment requires that state legislative districts should have substantially equal populations. Warren pointed out that "legislators represent people, not trees or acres [and] are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests."

Warren left the Court on June 23, 1969 and was replaced by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Warren died on July 9, 1974 in Washington, D.C. and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery after lying in repose in the Supreme Court Building.

Selected Opinions by Chief Justice Warren:

Powell v. McCormack (1969)

Topic: Role of Courts

Our system of government requires that federal courts on occasion interpret the Constitution in a manner at variance with the construction given the document by another branch. The alleged conflict that such an adjudication may cause cannot justify the courts' avoiding their constitutional responsibility.

Flast v. Cohen (1968)

Topic: Role of Courts

Taxpayers had standing under Article III to invoke federal judicial power, since they alleged that tax money was being spent in violation of a specific constitutional protection against the abuse of legislative power.

Terry v. Ohio (1968)

Topic: Search & Seizure

When a police officer observes unusual conduct that leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, when he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries in the course of investigating this behavior, and when nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or others' safety, the officer is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons that might be used to assault him.

U.S. v. O'Brien (1968)

Topic: Free Speech

When speech and non-speech elements are combined in the same course of conduct, a sufficiently important governmental interest in regulating the non-speech element can justify incidental limitations on First Amendment freedoms. A government regulation is sufficiently justified if it is within the constitutional power of the government, it furthers an important or substantial governmental interest, the governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression, and the incidental restriction on alleged First Amendment freedoms is no greater than is essential to the furtherance of that interest.

Loving v. Virginia (1967)

Topic: Due Process; Equal Protection

A statutory scheme to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

Topic: Miranda Rights

The prosecution may not use statements stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. Custodial interrogation means questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of their freedom of action in any significant way. Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that they have a right to remain silent, that any statement that they make may be used as evidence against them, and that they have a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed.

South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966)

Topic: Voting & Elections

Congress, as against the reserved powers of the states, may use any rational means to effectuate the constitutional prohibition of racial voting discrimination. The Fifteenth Amendment is self-executing and supersedes contrary exertions of state power. Its enforcement is not confined to judicial invalidation of racially discriminatory state statutes and procedures or to general legislative prohibitions against violations of the Amendment.

Reynolds v. Sims (1964)

Topic: Voting & Elections; Equal Protection

The Equal Protection Clause requires substantially equal legislative representation for all citizens in a state, regardless of where they reside. Legislators represent people, rather than areas, and weighting votes differently according to where citizens happen to reside is discriminatory.

Brown Shoe Co., Inc. v. U.S. (1962)

Topic: Antitrust

A merger must be functionally viewed in the context of its particular industry. Factors to consider include whether the consolidation will take place in an industry that is fragmented rather than concentrated, whether the industry has seen a recent trend toward domination by a few leaders or has remained consistent in its distribution of market shares, whether the industry has experienced easy access to markets by suppliers and easy access to suppliers by buyers or has witnessed foreclosure of business, and whether the industry has witnessed the ready entry of new competition or the erection of barriers to prospective entrants.

Braunfeld v. Brown (1961)

Topic: Religion

A state law prohibiting the Sunday retail sale of certain enumerated commodities did not violate the Free Exercise Clause.

McGowan v. Maryland (1961)

Topic: Religion

In light of the evolution of Sunday closing laws and their recent emphasis on secular considerations, most of these laws are of a secular rather than religious character.

James v. U.S. (1961)

Topic: Taxes

Embezzled money is taxable income of the embezzler in the year of the embezzlement.

Cooper v. Aaron (1958)

Topic: Role of Courts; Equal Protection

State officials have a duty to obey federal court orders resting on the Supreme Court's considered interpretation of the Constitution. Also, state support of segregated schools through any arrangement, management, funds, or property cannot be squared with the Equal Protection Clause.

Flora v. U.S. (1958)

Topic: Taxes

A taxpayer must pay the full amount of an income tax deficiency assessed by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue before they may challenge its correctness in a suit for refund.

Trop v. Dulles (1958)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

Citizenship is not subject to the general powers of the national government, and therefore it cannot be divested in the exercise of those powers.

Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co. (1955)

Topic: Taxes

Congress has applied no limitations as to the source of taxable receipts, nor restrictive labels as to their nature. Punitive damages are income because these are undeniable accessions to wealth, clearly realized, and over which taxpayers have complete dominion.

Bolling v. Sharpe (1954)

Topic: Equal Protection

In view of the decision in Brown v. Board of Education that the Constitution prohibits the states from maintaining racially segregated public schools, it would be unthinkable that the same Constitution would impose a lesser duty on the federal government.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)

Topic: Equal Protection

Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even if the physical facilities and other tangible factors may be equal.

Hernandez v. Texas (1954)

Topic: Equal Protection

The constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws is not directed solely against discrimination between whites and African-Americans. When the existence of a distinct class is demonstrated, and the laws single out that class for different treatment not based on a reasonable classification, the guarantees of the Constitution have been violated.