- Significant Decisions and Balance between Social Order Maintenance and Individual Liberties: Chief Justices Earl Warren and William Rehnquist had different approaches to balancing public order maintenance and individual liberties with regard to criminal procedure.
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and Law Enforcement: The Warren Court was more concerned about individual rights and equality, which characterized the approach as liberal. The Rehnquist Court had a conservative approach and was more focused on state authority claims and property rights.
- Current Approach to Balancing Civil Liberties and Public Order Maintenance: The decisions made under the Warren and Rehnquist Courts have formed a foundation of the current tactic with regard to criminal procedure.
The civil rights movement can be described as activism for social justice for Americans seeking to establish equal rights under the law in the United States. It occurred mainly during the 1950s and 1960s, and at about the same time, in 1953-1969, Earl Warren served as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Epstein and Walker 17). During the Warren Court, fundamental rights and liberties were expanded dramatically as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited certain acts of discrimination (Epstein and Walker 405). Chief Justice William Rehnquist, whose tenure in the U.S. Supreme Court was from 1986-2004, contributed to the development of the criminal justice system (Epstein and Walker 31). In particular, the Rehnquist Court improved the criminal justice procedure’s efficiency. Both Warren and Rehnquist have impacted the U.S. Constitution in their unique, profound ways. This essay aims to compare and contrast the approaches to criminal procedure in the U.S Supreme Court and under both Chief Justices Earl Warren and William Rehnquist.
Significant Decisions and Balance between Social Order Maintenance and Individual Liberties
To begin with, it is crucial to discuss the significant decisions by Chief Justices Earl Warren and William Rehnquist that impacted both the general public and the criminal justice system. One of the most significant cases affecting criminal procedure decisions was Gideon V. Wainwright in 1963 (Dichio 207). In this regard, the Sixth Amendment claimed that a free, publicly funded defense attorney had to be assigned to poor criminal defendants (Dichio 207). It guaranteed the right to legal counsel for criminal defendants in federal and state courts.
The Warren Court was marked by several crucial decisions that had a significant impact on criminal due process. Even though Warren was a prosecutor, he privately disapproved of the occurrence of police power abuse. In particular, forced confessions, along with warrantless searches, were considered unconstitutional under the Warren Court. They challenged the criminal procedures under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Mapp v. Ohio, a 1961 case, enhanced the Fourth Amendment’s safekeeping by banning persecutors from seizing evidence in illegal searches and further utilizing it in trials (Temme). The Miranda v. Arizona case in 1963 made it obligatory that the rights, including the right to an attorney, must be cited to all people being interrogated (Dichio 207). Furthermore, individuals must acknowledge the understanding of their fundamental rights. The court cases discussed above resulted in the enforcement and enhancement of many Americans’ civil rights.
Compared to Warren, Rehnquist was more interested in state authority claims and property rights in contrast to the protection of civil rights. He was also generally not supportive of criminal due process or privacy acts. However, several critical decisions highlight the Rehnquist Court’s approaches to criminal procedure. The case of Moran v. Burbine in 1896 held that only a voluntary and comprehensive relinquishment of Miranda rights allows a court to consider the right waived (Graetz and Greenhouse 370). Such a decision must not be a result of intimidation, deception, or coercion. Furthermore, the defendant’s awareness of both the right abandoned and the associated consequences is necessary for the waiver of Miranda rights. Another landmark case of the Rehnquist Court should be mentioned, McCleskey v. Kemp of 1987 (Graetz and Greenhouse 34). It revealed that “the murderer of a white, rather than black, person was 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death” (Graetz and Greenhouse 34). The Court upheld the death penalty’s constitutionality; therefore, the case highlighted how racial discrimination resulted in unfair sentences with regard to black defendants.
Overall, Chief Justices Earl Warren and William Rehnquist can be characterized by different approaches to balancing public order maintenance and individual liberties with regard to criminal procedure. As discussed above, during their tenure, both of them had significant cases that impacted criminal justice, individual liberties, and law enforcement procedures. The analysis of the decisions held by the Warren Court and the Rehnquist Court reveals that based on their rulings, the two Chief Justices were opposites in terms of social order and civil rights. It can be concluded that Warren had a more liberal approach to the subject, as showcased by his effort to improve civil rights in criminal procedure and expand individual liberties for the population. In turn, Rehnquist had a more conservative outlook on the subject and was more inclined to social order maintenance through established means. In other words, the Rehnquist Court was more inclined to the government’s position with regard to prosecution as opposed to the expansion of defendants’ rights.
The Supreme Court’s Decisions and Law Enforcement
The Supreme Court’s decisions had a significant impact on law enforcement in the United States. At the same time, the difference in approaches to criminal procedure and individual rights has resulted in different characteristics attributed to the Warren Court and the Rehnquist Court. Liberalism and conservatism are among the attributes of the U.S. Supreme Court at different times. According to Graetz and Greenhouse, “Chief Justice Earl Warren presided over a revolution in constitutional meaning” (2). Warren’s sixteen years as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court can be considered the most productive and dramatic. The Warren Court’s decisions on legislative reallocation, privacy, and criminal defendant rights, resulted in his recognition by liberals and criticism by conservatives. In this regard, the Warren Court is regarded as the most liberal throughout the history of the U.S. due to its liberalist decisions supporting individual rights. In contrast, the reputation of the Rehnquist Court is considered conservative and marked by less interest in supporting civil rights and liberties for underrepresented groups.
Current Approach to Balancing Civil Liberties and Public Order Maintenance
Balancing civil liberties against public order maintenance remains a major challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court. The decisions made under the Warren and Rehnquist Courts have formed a foundation of the current tactic with regard to criminal procedure. In particular, the landmark decisions of Chief Justice Warren were based on such themes as equality and expansive interpretation of constitutional rights (Brewer et al.). They continue to impact the current Supreme Court’s approach to balancing civil rights and public order maintenance. At the same time, the dilemma of public safety and individual liberties is still affected by such problems as discrimination, oppressive police power, and prejudice.
To conclude, both Chief Justices Earl Warren and William Rehnquist have made eventful impacts on the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. As evident from the famous cases, the Warren Court was more concerned about individual rights and equality, which characterized its approach as liberal. At the same time, the Rehnquist Court was more focused on property rights and state authority claims than on the protection of individual rights. In contrast, a more conservative approach was applied to the problem of balancing civil liberties against public order maintenance.
Brewer, John D., et al. The Police, Public Order and the State: Policing in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, the USA, Israel, South Africa and China. 2nd ed., Springer, 2016.
Dichio, Michael A. The US Supreme Court and the Centralization of Federal Authority. SUNY Press, 2018.
Epstein, Lee, and Thomas G. Walker. Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Institutional Powers and Constraints. 10th ed., CQ Press, 2019.
Graetz, Michael J., and Linda Greenhouse. The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right. Simon and Schuster, 2017.
Temme, Laura. ” Mapp v. Ohio Case Summary: What You Need to Know.” FindLaw, 2020, Web.