This Day in History.

Go read ari’s post over on Edge of the West about Earl Warren, who was nominated by Dwight Eisenhower to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 55 years ago today.

The Warren Court was obviously a major champion of civil rights, but it’s worth noting how close it was to never happening. Warren was Thomas Dewey’s running mate in 1948, and had that famously erroneous headline actually been correct — Dewey was widely favored to win — Warren would have been vice president and almost certainly not the steward of some of the most important Court decisions of the 20th century.*

*None of which Sarah Palin can name. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • scott

    Since when has the S.Ct.’s job been to pursue social justice (whatever that is)? I learned in high school it was their job to to interpret the constitution, or did I miss something that day?

  • scott: When you say ‘interpret the Constitution’, you seem to be implying that it has only one interpretation.

    Here’s a question for you: which Warren Court decisions do you take issue with and why?

  • Grump

    Scott, you missed the connection between laws that are enacted by governments and how they may hamper the lives of the citizens in said governments

  • scott


    The constitution can have more then one interpretation. I believe that some interpretations are more valid, that is to say that they are better supported by history and the text, than others. The court’s job is to decide cases by interpreting the constitution, not to pursue a goal, specific outcome or social justice (whatever that is).

    Some of the biggest clunkers for the Warren court as I see them, and in no particular order, are Gideon, Miranda and Brown.

    Gideon: yes the 6th amend says you have the right to counsel but it doesn’t say the state has to pay for it. This is a case of reading a concept into the text that is not there.

    Miranda: yes the 5th amend says no one shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself but it doesn’t say the cops have to tell you that. This is a case of reading a concept into the text that is not there.

    Brown: the case doesn’t turn upon the text of constitution or some other legal issue but rather the psychological/social effects of segregation.

  • Scott, before I make all manner of assumptions about you as a person, could you tell us how would you have liked to see Brown handled?

  • scott


    No, I get the connection. I would go a step further and argue that every law hampers the lives or actions of the citizens, some in good ways and some in bad ways. However it is usually in the eye of the beholder whether the impact is good or bad.

  • scott


    I think the District court where the suit was originally filed should have ruled for Mr. Brown in the first place.

  • Scott: good answer!