Supreme Court Cases (Warren Court)

How did the Warren Court use judicial review to protect the rights of citizens?

As we have previously discussed the sixties were a time of great
turbulence. Protest became a part of American life as we sought to
define ourselves in a new, modern era. Part of this process involved
a movement away from the authority and infallibility of government
and law enforcement. The ideas of individuals rights was became more
important. As is often the case these battles were fought in the
courts. The Supreme court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren made
several controversial decisions that changed the nature of law

I. Rights as defined by the Warren Court

A. How does the constitution protect our rights?

1. The constitution allows citozens to vote and choose
a government of their liking.

2. In the beginning voting righjts were understood to be limited
to white, male landowners.

3. Voting rights were eventually extended by constitutional

  • Amendment 15 – Extend right to vote to Blacks.
  • Amendment 19 – Extended right to vote to Women.
  • Amendment 24 – Outlawed Poll Taxes
  • Amendment 26 – Lowered voting age to 18.

B. What are some key Amendments that protect peoples rights.

  • Amendment 1: freedom of religion, separation of church and
    state; freedoms of speech, press, assembly, petition the govt.

  • Amendment 2: Right to bear arms
  • Amendment 4: Protection against unreasonable search and

  • Amendment 5: Capital crimes charges must be leveled by a grand
    jury, no self incrimination.

  • Amendment 6: Fair and speedy jury trial, right to have the
    assistance of counsel for defense.

  • Amendment 7: Trial by jury in civil suits exceeding 20

  • Amendment 8: No excessive bail, no cruel and unusual

  • Amendment 14: Equal protection under the law, due process of

C. What cases were tried during the Warren Court years (1960’s)and
how did they impact on rights in America?

Brown V, Board of Education, Topeka
Kansas – 1954 – Civil Rights

Linda Brown, a student in the segregated Topeka
Kansas school district had to walk 5 miles to school each day. Across

the train tracks from her house there was a white school she was
unable to attend. Oliver Brown enlisted the help of the NAACP to
ensure that his daughter was able to go to the best school possible.
Thurgood Marshall, then head of the NAACP, challenged the segregation
of the school claiming that the laws violated the 14th amendment to
the Constitution that said that all citizens were to receive “equal
protection under the law.” The state argued that Plessey v Ferguson
had set the precedent and that the laws was clear on this

The court affirmed the position of Marshall and
the Brown family and overturned the precedent set by the Plessey
decision. Justice Earl Warren claimed that “in the eyes of the law,
justice was color-blind.” In ruling in favor of Brown the court
ordered the integration of America “with all deliberate speed.” The
civil rights movement had begun!


Mapp v Ohio – 1961 – Search and

Dorlee Mapp was suspected of having information in
her home that would implicate a suspected bomber. The police came to
her home and asked if they might search the residence. Ms. Mapp
called her lawyer and was advised to ask for a warrant. They police
did not have a warrant and were asked to leave. Hours later the
police returned and forcibly entered the residence. Mrs. Mapp
demanded to see the warrant and a piece of paper was waved in her

face. Mrs. Mapp grabbed the paper and tucked it in her blouse. A
struggle ensued where Ms. Mapp was knocked to the ground as police
retrieved the supposed warrant. Outside Ms. Mapp’s attorney arrived
on the scene but was prevented from entering the residence. The
police found pornographic materiels in the house and Ms. Mapp was
arrested for possession of lewd materials. Ms. Mapp was convicted of
this crime. Ms.. Mapp appealed her conviction on the grounds that the
search of her home was in violation of her rights.

The court ruled that the evidence obtained in the
search was inadmissable because it was seized in an illegal search.
In ruling this way the court created the “exclusionary rule” which
makes illegally obtained evidence inadmissable in court. This ruling
upheld the principles of the fourth amendment.

Betts v Brady
– 1942 – Right To Counsel
**Not a Warren Court case – this case
is the precedent overturned by the following two cases; Escobedo and

Betts was indicted for robbery and detained in a
Maryland jail. Prior to his trial, he asked for counsel to represent
him. This request was denied and he was soon convicted. While
incarcerated, Betts filed a habeas corpus petition in the lower
courts. After they rejected his petitions, he filed a certiorari
petition with the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his case. Bett
argued that his 6th Amendment right to a fair trial was violated
because of his lack of counsel. The State of Maryland held that most
states did not require the appointment of counsel in non-capital
cases and the circumstances of this particular case did not require
it. Although the Court found in favor of Betts, it decided that the
right to counsel must be decided on a case- by-case basis. This
ruling was upheld for 20 years until it was overturned by Gideon v.
Wainwright in 1963.

Gideon v. Wainright – 1963 – Right To

Gideon was accused of breaking into a poolroom.
Gideon, an ex con, was too poor to pay for a lawyer and asked the
court to appoint one for him. The court refused to grant his request
stating that lawyers were only provided for those accused of
committing capital crimes like murder, rape, etc. Gideon was tried
and was forced to defend himself. While in Prison Gideon hand wrote a
plea to the Supreme Court and was granted a hearing. At this point he
received representation from lawyers who were attracted to his case.
Gideon argued that his right to a fair trial was violated.

Gideon’s position was upheld. The Court ruled that
all citizens must be provided a lawyer if they cannot afford one.
This is regardless of the type of crime.

Escobedo v Illinois – 1964 – Right To

Escobedo was arrested in connection with a murder
and brought to the police station. He repeatedly asked to see his
lawyer, but was never allowed out of the interrogation room. His
lawyer even went so far as to come to the police station in search of
him, but was denied access. Escobedo then confessed while under
interrogation to firing the shot that killed the victim. As a result,
he was soon convicted. Escobedo appealed to the Supreme Court and it
overturned the conviction. The Court extended the “exclusionary rule”
to illegal confessions and ruled that Escobedo’s confession should
not have been allowed in as evidence. The Court also defined the
“Escobedo Rule” which holds that individuals have the right to an
attorney when an “investigation is no longer a general inquiry…but
has begun to focus on a particular suspect…” The ruling went on to
detail that (Where) the suspect has been taken into custody…the
suspect has requested…his lawyer, and the police have not…warned
him of his right to remain silent, the accused has been
denied…counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment.”

Miranda v Arizona – 1966 – Rights of the

Ernesto Miranda was arrested for the kidnaping and
rape of a young woman. Upon arrest Miranda was questioned for two
hours. He never asked for a lawyer and eventually confessed to the
crime. Later, however, a lawyer representing Miranda appealed the
case to the Supreme Court claiming that Miranda’s rights had been
violated. Miranda was acquitted. The Court ruled that citizens must
be informed of their rights prior to questioning. Any evidence or
statement obtained prior to a suspect being read his/her rights is
inadmissable. This has led to what is commonly referred to as one’s
“Miranda Rights” having to be read upon questioning or arrest. They
are: “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can, and
will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an
attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you.”
Note, Miranda was later killed in a barroom brawl, stabbed to

Engle v Vitale – 1962 – Seperation of Church
and State

In the late 1950’s the New York State Board of
Regents wrote and adopted a prayer which was supposed to be
nondenominational. The board recommended that the prayer be said by
students in public schools on a voluntary basis every morning. In New
Hyde Park Long Island a parent sued the school claiming that the
prayer violated the first amendment of the constitution. The school
argued that the prayer was nondenominational and did not attempt to
“establish or endorse” a religion and thus that it did not violate
the establishment clause.

The court ruled against the school district and
upheld the establishment clause of the first amendment. Prayer in
schools was to be considered unconstitutional.

Abbington v Schempp – 1963 – Seperation of
Church and State

This case involved a Pennsylvania law requiring
that at least ten Bible verses be read in public schools at the
beginning of each day. The Schempps, a family in Abington, sued the
school district for violating the first amendment of the
constitution. Just as in Engle v Vitale, religious instruction in
school was deemed to violate the 1st amendment of the

Tinker v Des Moines – 1969 – Symbolic

Several students and parents in Des Moines
organized a protest of the Vietnam war. Students were to wear black
arm bands to school in protest. When the school found out they warned
all the students and parents that anyone wearing the armbands would
be would be suspended. The Tinker children wore their armbands to
school (they were the only ones of the group to do so) and were
suspended. Mr and Mrs. Tinker filed suit claiming that the school
violated the children’s right to freedom of speech and expression.
The school claimed that the armbands were disruptive.

The court ruled against the school district saying
that “students do not shed their constitutional rights at the school
house gates. In doing so the court protected what has come to be
known as “symbolic speech.”

Olmstead v United States – 1928 – Search and
Seizure (Wiretaps)
**This is not a
Warren Court case. It is the precedent that was overturned by the
next case, Katz v United States.

Roy Olmstead, a bootlegger, had a good business
going during the prohibition years. He sold liquor illegally in
violation of the 18th amendment and the Volstead Act. The government
in searching for evidence used a new technology and tapped into
Olmstead’s phone lines. They recorded evidence against Olmstead,
arrested him and he was convicted using that evidence. Olmstead’s
lawyer appealed arguing that the police had violated his right to
privacy by listening in on his phone conversations. He further argued
that the evidence used to convict him should be thrown out because it
was obtained without a warrant.

Olmstead’s conviction was upheld as the court
ruled that right to privacy and the need for a search warrant did not
apply to telephone conversations. Attorney Louis D. Brandeis, later
to become Supreme Court Justice argued in defense of Olmstead to no
avail. Later, when Brandeis sat on the bench he helped to overrule
that precedent in the case of Katz v United States.

Katz v. United States – 1961 – Search and
Seizure (Wiretaps)

Katz was arrested for illegal gambling after using
a public phone to transmit “gambling information.” The FBI had
attached an electronic listening/recording device onto the outside of
the public phone booth that Katz habitually used. They argued that
this constituted a legal action since they never actually entered the
phone booth. The Court, however, ruled in favor of Katz, stating the
Fourth Amendment allowed for the protection of a person and not just
a person’s property againsty illegal searches. Whatever a citizen
“seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accesible to the
public, may be constitutionally protected.”

If one looks at the trend of the Warren Court it is clear that
this was a liberal, activist court dedicated to extending and
protecting rights.